Garlic smuggler released early from prison

Paul Begley will carry out remainder of sentence on community return programme

A businessman jailed over a €1.6 million garlic import duty scam has been granted temporary release from prison to participate in a community return programme after being convicted for garlic smuggling.

Paul Begley was jailed for six years for tax offences after admitting labelling more than 1,000 tonnes of garlic imported from China as apples, which have a lower tax rate. Last month the Court of Criminal Appeal reduced his sentence to two years.

A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service confirmed Begley (47) was released from the training unit at Mountjoy Prison this afternoon on a temporary basis to begin the community return programme.

This programme is an incentivised scheme under which offenders who are assessed as posing no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service and structured rehabilitative programmes.


If they adhere to the terms of their release and do not reoffend they are freed officially after a period equivalent to half the period of the sentence they still had to serve.

Some 110 prisoners currently participate in the programme. Begley will not return to prison if he succefully completes the programme. The spokesman refused to comment on where Begley will carry out the programme or what his duties will be.

In January three judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that the term – the longest ever handed down for tax fraud of its kind – was excessive and disproportionate.

Begley was head of country's largest fruit and vegetable company, Begley Brothers Ltd, when he avoided paying a higher tax of up to 232 per cent on garlic. Fruit and vegetables have rates as low as 9 per cent. He was jailed last March for evading customs duty between September 2003 and October 2007.

Last month, delivering the court’s ruling on behalf of the three judges who heard the appeal, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie said there was no doubt the charges in question were “serious and constitute a significant infringement of the criminal law”.

He said Begley’s actions were carried out at different times between 2003 and 2007 and required premeditated acts of deception. He said mitigating factors included the immediate and extensive co-operation Begleygave the Revenue Commissioners, and expressions of remorse “tangibly demonstrated” by the appellant.

The judge said the reduced two-year sentence would be backdated to the time at which Begley was first imprisoned in March last year. With remission, his sentence would be reduced by a quarter, meaning he could be released within a number of months.