An Irish truck driver has won his legal challenge over a €1.5 million tax penalty demand from Greece.
Eamonn Donnellan had sued the Revenue Commissioners concerning a demand served on him more than 10 years after his arrest, conviction and subsequent acquittal for smuggling cigarettes in Greece.
At the High Court on Thursday, Mr Justice Tony O'Connor granted a declaration that Revenue is not entitled to enforce the Greek authorities' request to recover the demand. Revenue consented to the declaration.
Mr Donnellan was notified by Revenue in November 2014 of the demand, arising from another issued by the Greek tax authorities in April 2009.
The High Court declaration followed a finding last week by the Court of Justice of the European Union on a preliminary issue in the case referred to it in 2015 by the High Court.
It held that, under EU law, bodies like Revenue may refuse requests from other member states to seek demands from persons on the ground that the affected person was not properly notified of the demand.
On Thursday, Mr Justice O’Connor welcomed the resolution of the proceedings and awarded Mr Donnellan his costs against Revenue.
Mr Donellan, of Culkeen, Cloonfad, Co Roscommon, was jailed in 2002 after a Greek court found him guilty of smuggling after a consignment of 176,000 packs of contraband cigarettes was found concealed in his truck.
He at all times maintained his innocence and served more than four months in jail before his conviction was overturned and he was released.
He returned home and heard nothing until November 2014 when he was notified by the Revenue he owed the Greek authorities €1.5m. The demand was made under EU Council Directive 2010/24 and European Communities Regulations dealing with requests for mutual assistance for the recovery of certain levies, duties and taxes.
Mr Donnellan, represented by Paul McGarry SC opposed the demand, arguing it was procedurally flawed and an abuse of process. He was informed the demand was a penalty in respect of a criminal offence that he was acquitted of, the court heard.
His lawyers claimed the Greek authorities didn’t comply with the provisions of the EU Directive before requesting the assistance of Revenue. He claimed he was never properly notified of the demand or given an opportunity to contest it.
He subsequently discovered the judgment was made against him in 2009, resulting in his proceedings to have the demand set aside.
On Thursday, Noel Travers SC, for Revenue, said it was consenting to a decalartion in favour of Mr Donnellan after the ECJ had brought clarity to the matter. When Revenue received the Greek request, it believed it had an obligation under EU law to serve the demand on Mr Donnellan, he said.