Cheating Ulster doctor on £10k a week fined £230k for tax-dodge scam
One of Northern Ireland's leading medical specialists has been fined £230,000 for cheating the taxman out of almost half-a-million pounds.
Mr Justice Weir told Dr Francis Gerard D'Arcy that if he and his wife had not had medical conditions, he would have sent him to prison.
Instead, the tax-dodging doctor - who specialised in deafness claims brought by police officers and soldiers - walked free from court with a two-year suspended sentence.
D'Arcy - who was raking in up to £10,000 a week - now faces going before the General Medical Council for further sanction.
Over a four-year period, the 73-year-old fraudster used the accounts of his children to hide hundreds of thousands of pounds from the taxman.
Mr Justice Weir said that while Dr D'Arcy's crimes might have seemed clever to him, they were avaricious and stupid as he was bound to be ultimately caught.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said D'Arcy's use of his children's accounts - two live in the Republic and two in Australia - had affectively allowed for the money to be laundered.
The children were all doctors by profession.
The funds came from cashed uncrossed cheques that D'Arcy, from the Malone Road in south Belfast, had obtained from solicitors.
Last month D'Arcy - once a top NHS ear, nose and throat specialist - pleaded guilty to four counts of cheating the public revenue between 2008 and 2012 while acting as a private ear specialist consultant working on hundreds of deafness claims.
D'Arcy has since settled his bill with HM Revenue and Customs.
At the March hearing, prosecution counsel Liam McCollum QC said the former surgeon had moved into private work after retiring, providing legal reports for civil actions in the courts, and seeing 35 to 40 patients per week, receiving on average around £250 for each patient.
During the four years he carried out this work, D'Arcy had failed to file any tax returns on his work with private clients at his practice and said that the total amount of tax evaded was "just under £500,000''.
"When the matter was investigated, it was clear he did not keep proper accounts or records for this period of his income. During interviews with police, he admitted in accepting uncrossed cheques from others," the QC said.
The court has heard how D'Arcy would ring up solicitors he acted for in deafness claims and ask them to re-issue him with uncrossed cheques for his services.
Mr McCollum said the aggravating factor in the case was that the cheques were made out to 'Dr D'Arcy' and the cheques would then be paid into his four children's accounts.
Asked by the judge if D'Arcy's offending was through maladministration or if it was a deliberate act, the prosecutor replied: "He has pleaded guilty to cheating the public revenue.
"If it was simply a matter of maladministration, it would have been a civil action. However, there is nothing wrong with putting money into your children's accounts.''
Mr Justice Weir said that it was "incapable of belief'' that D'Arcy's offending was down to "maladministration'', saying that all the consultant had to do was to lodge the cheque into his bank at Finaghy crossroads in south Belfast and put the letter from the solicitor into a cardboard box.
"A cardboard box is not hard to get. And at the end of the tax year, he can either do his returns himself or give the cardboard box over to an accountant,'' added the judge.
However, said Mr Justice Weir, this would have meant Dr D'Arcy revealing the large sums he was really earning.
Mr McCollum QC said all the money had been repaid in full, including interest and penalties.
D'Arcy was also ordered to hand over £5,800 for the costs of his prosecution.
Defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC said D'Arcy had an "exemplary medical career'' spanning over 30 years in the NHS, had given a "lifetime of public service'' and had never faced any complaints about his work prior to this case.
The QC said D'Arcy's offending was down to his maladministration due to his "chaotic" filing system and said he did not have the "administrative or organisational skills" to keep proper records.