Minister urged to review jailing in garlic-tax case


INDEPENDENT TD Finian McGrath has urged Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to review the case of a Dublin businessman who is in Mountjoy for failing to pay €1.6 million in garlic import duty.

Paul Begley (46) of Begley Brothers Ltd, based in Blanchardstown, Co Dublin, avoided paying customs duty on over 1,000 tonnes of garlic from China by having them labelled as apples.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard last month that the import duty on garlic was “inexplicably” high and could be up to 232 per cent. Judge Martin Nolan said: “It gives me no joy at all to jail a decent man.” But he added that Begley had engaged in a “grave” and “huge” tax evasion scheme and imprisoned him for six years.

Import tax on garlic “may or may not” be excessive, he said, but this was for the Oireachtas to decide and not individuals.

In a letter to the Minister yesterday, Mr McGrath said: “This a grave injustice for a non-violent crime. He has paid his fines; he will also do community service if requested; his business is now under serious threat and 200 jobs are at risk while he is in prison.”

The Dublin North Central TD said: “I strongly believe that the sentence does not fit the crime. I urge you to review this case.”

The Department of Justice said the Minister “does not have a role” in such appeals processes.