Top doctor who handled police and Army ear injury claims hid a fortune from taxman
One of Northern Ireland's top doctors cheated the taxman out of almost half a million pounds over four years, a court heard.
Belfast Crown Court was told that Francis Gerard D'Arcy used the accounts of his four doctor children to secret away hundreds of thousands of pounds from HM Revenue and Customs.
And the 73-year-old also asked solicitors to give him uncrossed cheques to enable him to cash them without having to pay tax on his earnings, the court heard.
Married D'Arcy, from the Malone Road in south Belfast, had pleaded guilty last month 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 for police officers and soldiers.
Prosecution counsel Liam McCollum QC said D'Arcy had for many years been a ear, nose and throat surgeon in the National Health Service before retiring and moving into private work, providing many legal reports for civil actions in the courts.
He added that 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".
Mr Justice Weir was told that the consultant saw between 35 to 40 patients per week, receiving on average around £250 for each patient.
"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 court was told that 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 QC 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 the accounts of his four children who were all doctors by profession.
Asked by Mr Justice Weir if D'Arcy's offending was through maladministration or if it was a deliberate act by D'Arcy, 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."
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," said the judge.
Mr McCollum QC said all the money had been repaid in full, including interest and penalties. He said the prosecution was seeking to recover £5,800 from D'Arcy for the costs of the case.
Defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC said D'Arcy had an "exemplary medical career" spanning more than 30 years in the NHS, had given a "lifetime of public service" and had never faced any complaints about his professional work before this case.
He said the defendant had pleaded guilty to four counts of cheating the public revenue "and he stands by those pleas", adding that his 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.
Mr Justice Weir said he would sentence D'Arcy next week and released him on continuing bail.