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Dublin man (66) caught with cigarettes and tobacco worth over €100k gets suspended sentence

Francis Burke’s home was searched by customs and excise officers who recovered the items which did not have tax stamps

Fiona FergusonSunday World

A 66-year-old man who was caught in possession of cigarettes and tobacco worth over €100,000 on which excise duty had not been paid has avoided a jail term.

Francis Burke’s home was searched by customs and excise officers who recovered the items which did not have tax stamps and on which €91,484 in excise duty should have been paid to the State.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Burke described himself as someone with a drink problem who people knew was down on his luck and he was holding stuff and delivering it when directed.

Burke of Cabra Park, Dublin 7, pleaded guilty to possession of and evasion of excise duty on the cigarettes and tobacco seized from his home on February 19, 2021. He has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence on Monday, Judge Pauline Codd noted there had been a very significant amount in terms of revenue lost to the State but took into account that Burke had not been benefiting from the offences and was living in very modest circumstances.

She took into account testimonials handed into court indicating that Burke had been drinking heavily at the time and was in great fear of going to prison but was engaging with the Peter McVerry Trust.

She noted he had lived a prosocial life to date and been badly impacted by bereavements.

Francis Burke

Judge Codd imposed a three year sentence which she suspended in full on strict conditions.

Officer Marie Tracey, of customs and excise, told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that they found the items after searching Burke's home on foot of a search warrant. They had found 7,000 cigarettes on Burke himself in a backpack and shopping bag.

They recovered a total of 142,560 cigarettes and 24.6 kilogram of tobacco worth a total of €116,075.

A diary with cash amounts and names was also recovered from the apartment. Burke said nothing of evidential value during interview but entered an early guilty plea.

The officer agreed with Justin McQuade BL, defending, that there were no trappings of wealth in Burkes’s apartment and he was living alone.

Mr McQuade submitted in mitigation that Burke was a retired man who had a long work history from the age of 13. He said Burke described himself as having been involved in the offending for months rather than years. He is now at risk of homelessness.

He said Burke was an individual at lower rung of the ladder, having lived a modest life and asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence.

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