Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy guilty of tax evasion after 32-day trial

Special Criminal Court ‘satisfied beyond reasonable doubt’ of guilt on all counts

Thomas “Slab” Murphy after appearing in court in  2007: Murphy was once described as “a good republican” by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thomas “Slab” Murphy after appearing in court in 2007: Murphy was once described as “a good republican” by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Prominent republican Thomas “Slab” Murphy has been found guilty of tax evasion by the Special Criminal Court for failing to furnish tax returns for nearly a decade from 1996.

During the 32-day trial the court heard evidence from Department of Agriculture staff, cattle mart and meat factory managers, Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) officers and a Revenue inspector. The latter two gave evidence anonymously.

The State alleged Murphy, who was once described as “a good republican” by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, had bought and sold cattle and received State and European Union grants but had never filed returns.

Delivering the verdict, Mr Justice Paul Butler, sitting with Judge John O’Hagan and Judge Ann Ryan, said they were “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that in each of the individual counts on the indictment the accused is guilty”.

Defence lawyers for Murphy, from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, had argued his brother Patrick controlled the farm and was therefore the person liable for tax.

Retired Department of Agriculture employee Pat Rafferty said that Murphy, whose farm straddles the Border, had applied for a Department of Agriculture herd number in 1991 for registering cattle.

Departmental grants

He had received €100,000 in Department of Agriculture grants since then under the slaughter premium scheme, the special beef premium and European Union area aid, the court was told.

Michael Naughton, a former mart manager, said Murphy had traded cattle worth more than €150,000 in Roscommon, while the former office manager in Carnaross Mart in Co Meath, Peter O’Reilly, said Murphy had bought nearly €70,000 worth of cattle there over 18 months from June 2004.

The office administrator at Ballyjamesduff cattle mart in Co Cavan, Patricia Reilly, said Murphy had bought €200,000 worth of cattle, while Gerry Connellan, manager at Elphin Co-op Livestock Mart in Co Roscommon, said he had bought €100,000 worth of cattle there from 1999 to 2004.

Sales records formed a key part of the prosecution case. Tom Mulligan, former project manager at Kepak, Clonee, Co Meath, said Murphy had sold €30,000 worth of animals to the factory from August 1999 to August 2001.

Cheques for animals

Liam Connolly, financial controller at Donegal Meat Processors, gave evidence the company had paid €160,000 in cheques to Murphy for animals sold from December 2000 until August 2004, while Newgrange Meats in Slane, Co Meath, reported €15,000 worth of purchases.

A forensic accountant, who works with Cab and cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court an Irish Life & Permanent account in Murphy’s name had seen €625,000 worth of lodgments and €668,000 of lodgments.

Under cross-examination by Murphy’s lawyer, John Kearney QC, a Revenue inspector, who gave evidence anonymously, told the court he estimated Murphy’s income from farming was €15,000 a year.

During the trial, Murphy’s lawyers suggested the handwriting on some documents was forged.

Delivering the judgment, Mr Justice Butler said other matters which Murphy was allegedly involved in had “no relevance whatsoever on the court’s decision”.

Murphy (66) was remanded on continuing bail until February 12th, when the sentencing issue will be mentioned.