'Slab' Murphy set to appeal conviction for tax evasion

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy

Prominent republican Thomas “Slab” Murphy will move to appeal his conviction for tax evasion later this year.

The 66-year-old of Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, a farm that straddles the border with Northern Ireland, had pleaded not guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to nine charges of failing to comply with tax laws in the Irish Republic

The three-judge Special Criminal Court found Murphy guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on February 26 last.

His barrister, Tony McGillicuddy BL, informed the Court of Appeal today that his client's submissions for his appeal against conviction had yet to be filed but they would be served “shortly”.

Mr McGillicuddy said the case may require two or three days for hearing. There was a substantial amount of documents at trial and he asked the judge to list the appeal for case management next term.

Mr Justice Birmingham listed the matter for May 27 next when a date is expected to be set for hearing.

Murphy was not in court for the procedural matter.

Mr McGillicuddy had told the Court of Appeal on Friday that his instructions would be to seek a priority hearing for the appeal.

However, on that occasion, Mr Justice Birmingham said no such appliction could be acceded to in a situation where submissions had yet to be filed.

Last December, following a 32-day trial, Murphy was found guilty of nine charges of failing to furnish a return of his income, profits or gains or the source of his income, profits or gains to the Collector General or the Inspector of Taxes for the years 1996/97 to 2004.

The court had heard evidence that the Cab's assessment of Murphy's tax bill is worth 5,344,157 Euro and that from farming income, the issue for which Murphy was tried before the court, he owes 189,964 Euro.

The estimated loss to Revenue is based on the "notional figure" of 15,000 Euro or 15,000 Irish Pounds per year profit from Murphy's farming business, the court had heard.

During the trial, the court heard evidence that, although Murphy conducted dealings in relation to cattle and land, and received farming grants from the Department of Agriculture, he failed to make any returns to revenue.

From 1996 to 2004, he received grants from the Department of Agriculture totalling over 100,000 Euro. The payments were made for farming grant schemes including the Slaughter Premium Scheme, the Special Beef Premium and EU Area Aid.

The court also heard of a search carried out by the Cab in March 2006 in an outhouse on the border with Northern Ireland, when investigators seized a large volume of documents and ledgers, cash worth 256,235 Euro and 111,185 Pounds Sterling, as well as uncashed cheques worth 579,000 Euro, 80,000 Pounds Sterling and 24,000 Irish Pounds.

Evidence from livestock mart managers was that Murphy purchased cattle with a total value of over 500,000 Euro. Meat factory managers told the court that he sold cattle with a total value of over 200,000 Euro.

The court also heard evidence of a bank account opened in Murphy's name which, at the judgement hearing last December, Mr Justice Butler said was “operated by [Murphy] to his benefit”.

Murphy's defence lawyers had claimed that his brother, Patrick, was in control of the farming activities and was therefore the chargeable person. A chargeable person is a person who is chargeable to tax on income.

Passing sentence at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in February, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court's decision was not influenced by the publicity surrounding the trial.

Mr Justice Butler said that, during the trial, “some commentary referred to other unconnected matters” and that the court was "aware of the publicity”.

“It has no bearing on the revenue charges brought against [Murphy},” the judge said, adding that the court was "in no way influenced" by the publicity.

The court tried Murphy as a “farmer and cattle dealer,” the judge said.

After sentencing, in a statement issued via his solicitor, Murphy had said he maintains his innocence and had instructed his legal team to "pursue an appeal immediately".

By Ruaidhrí Giblin