Michael Lowry claims he is vindicated, despite conviction

TD found guilty of tax offences is fined and banned from acting as company director

Independent TD Michael Lowry from Tipperary has been fined €15,000 and his refrigeration company Garuda has been fined €10,000 after being found guilty of a tax offence and failing to keep proper books of account. Video: Colm Keena

 

The Independent Tipperary TD, Michael Lowry, has been fined and banned from acting as a company director for three years after being found guilty by a jury of two offences relating to his refrigeration company, Garuda.

Speaking after the trial, he described the outcome as a “fantastic result”.

His trial, he said, should have been held “locally” and at District Court level. “What business had they bringing me here to the special, criminal court in Dublin? None. None. And that has been proven.”

After a 12-day trial in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, the jury found Mr Lowry guilty of charges of failing to keep proper books of account and of delivering an incorrect corporation tax return.

During the trial a more serious tax charge against the politician was dropped and the jury failed to reach a decision in regard to other charges, which the State will not now pursue.

All the charges related to the treatment of a 2002 commission payment of around €372,000 from a Finnish company, Norpe OY, that was owed to Garuda arising from sales to Dunnes Stores.

The trial heard that the money went to the Isle of Man, to an entity called the Glebe Trust which is associated with Northern Ireland land scout, Kevin Phelan.

Mr Phelan and the Glebe Trust featured in the long-running Moriarty Tribunal investigation into links between Mr Lowry and businessman Denis O’Brien. However this was not a factor in the trial just finished.

Free man

After sentence was delivered by Judge Martin Nolan, Mr Lowry told reporters outside the court building that he had come in a free man, and was leaving a free man. He made it clear that he strongly resented the fact that he had been brought to the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin to face charges.

“Now this is a special, criminal court, and all of you know the type of cases that are heard and dealt with in this court. My case should never have been heard in Dublin.”

Twice asked by reporters to address the fact that he had been found guilty of two offences, Mr Lowry failed to respond. He referred the reporters to the remarks made during sentencing by the judge.

The judge had described Mr Lowry as a “conscientious tax payer” having accepted evidence that he previously “put his hand in his pocket” to settle a €1.4 million tax bill in 2007, that related to matters dating back to 1997. He said Mr Lowry had no previous convictions, was a good employer and a very good public representative.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. He has been re-elected,” the judge said.

Following the verdict, a spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government had “no understanding with Michael Lowry . . . there’s no special arrangement there”.

Recently, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that there was “no written agreement with Mr Lowry”.