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Tax fraudster Thomas 'Slab' Murphy faces five years in jail for illegal empire

By Daniel Hickey and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 18/12/2015

Thomas Murphy arrives at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin
Thomas Murphy arrives at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin

Prominent republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy is facing a potential prison sentence of up to five years after being convicted of tax fraud.

Murphy's conviction is hugely embarrassing for Sinn Fein, whose president Gerry Adams previously called him a "good republican".

Murphy (66) from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, denied nine charges but was convicted on all counts after a 32-day trial at Dublin's Special Criminal Court.

The prosecution alleged he did not furnish a return of income, profits or gains or their sources over eight years.

In March 2006 Mr Adams sprang to Murphy's defence when police and customs swooped. During the operation the Republic's Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and customs officers uncovered evidence of a hidden economy worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Afterwards the Sinn Fein president described Murphy as "a keen supporter" of the party's peace strategy. Asked last night if he still held those views, Mr Adams replied: "He has strongly contested the accusations. I have no comment to make until the legal process has been concluded."

Mr Murphy had previously been named in an unsuccessful libel action as a senior IRA commander.

Dressed in a brown jacket, trousers and a pink open-neck shirt, the defendant showed no emotion as Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding judge of the three-judge court, delivered a 10-page ruling.

Judge Butler said the court was "satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that in each of the individual counts on the indictment the accused is guilty".

During the trial the court heard evidence from employees in the Republic's Department of Agriculture, cattle mart and meat factory managers, CAB investigators and a revenue inspector that, although Murphy conducted dealings in relation to cattle and land, and received farming grants from the Department of Agriculture, he failed to make any returns to the country's tax authorities.

Murphy's defence lawyers had claimed that his brother Patrick was in control of the farming activities and was therefore the chargeable person - the one who is chargeable to tax on income.

A revenue officer from the Republic, who cannot be named for legal reasons, examined various documents and concluded that Murphy was involved in the farming business and that, from the years 1996 to 2004, he had not filed tax returns.

Murphy was remanded on continuing bail and will be sentenced early next year.

William Irwin, DUP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, welcomed the conviction as a victory against cross-border crime.

"In tandem with the strategy now in place to combat paramilitary gangsterism, I hope that we will see many other such individuals standing before a court in the future," he said.

"There has always been a lot of speculation about Mr Murphy's role in society and his standing. We now have confirmation that he is a criminal, and I would hope that no one would have any problems referring to him as such."

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