Belfast Telegraph

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy made no tax returns for eight years, court told

Prominent republican Thomas "Slab" Murphy made no tax returns over an eight-year period despite his cattle and farm dealings running into hundreds of thousands of euro, prosecutors have claimed.

At the opening of his trial for alleged tax offences, lawyers for the Irish Republic said the accused also drew state grants for his farm straddling the border with Northern Ireland amounting to more than 100,000 euro.

Murphy, 66, from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin's non-jury Special Criminal Court to nine charges of failing to comply with tax laws between 1996 to 2004.

Paul Burns SC, for the state, said during that period Murphy applied for a "herd number for keeping cattle" - a registration issued to farmers.

Using the number, he applied for and received state grants from the Department of Agriculture totalling well over 100,000 euro, he told the court.

Substantial cash payments were also made by the accused to rent land over the same period, as well as payments in relation to silage used on the rented lands, the barrister said.

These sums were over 300,000 euro and were paid in cash by third party cheques, it is alleged.

Mr Burns said the prosecution case will show Murphy had access to a considerable source or sources of cash.

The accused's dealings with various cattle marts and his dealing of livestock also involved figures "running well into six figures", he told the three-judge court.

Documents were also seized as part of an investigation into the well-known republican by Dublin's Criminal Assets Bureau, the hearing was told.

Mr Burns said the prosecution will rely on tax certificates, which under the law are deemed as evidence of facts unless proven otherwise.

The state barrister added that the Special Criminal Court would be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of the alleged offences.

Murphy sat in the court, dressed in a brown coat, yellow and white striped open-necked shirt and brown trousers, almost eight years since he was arrested as part of a tax investigation.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

The charges relate to an alleged failure to comply with tax laws in the Irish Republic by not furnishing authorities with a return of income, profits or gains or the sources of them over an eight-year period from 1996 to 2004.

On Tuesday the court remanded Murphy on continuing bail, removing the requirement for him to sign on at a Garda station on any date he is in court.

The first witness to be called in the trial was Grainne Dalton, a retired civil servant who oversaw aid applications in the Department of Agriculture.

She told the hearing she handed over files to investigators on the request of the Criminal Assets Bureau relating to grant applications from Murphy.

John Kearney SC, barrister for Murphy, cross-examined Ms Dalton on whether she could say for certain that applications supposedly filled out and signed by the accused were in fact completed by him.

Under repeated questioning, she said she could "not forensically" say Murphy filled in the documents.

"I can't say it for certain," she said.

Mr Kearney told the court "it was not accepted that he (Murphy) had any hand or part in the creation or submission of this documentation".

Ms Dalton said the correspondence with Murphy was addressed only to the townland Ballybinaby.

She accepted she did not know the area, who lived there, how many people lived there, or how many Murphys lived there.

The former civil servant agreed striking similarities in several grant applications shown to the courts, apparently from different people, would give cause for concern now.

"A lot of things that happened in those days would not be tolerated now," she said.

Lawrence Cashman, an officer in the Department of Agriculture, gave evidence about an application for a herd number in the name of Thomas Murphy filed at the veterinary office in Dundalk.

Mr Kearney said the accused had nothing to do with the application.

Niall McKeon, who works in the department's IT section, detailed a number of State payments from several different farmer schemes allegedly made to Murphy between 1996 and 2004.

The court was told these payments totalled IR£30,512 in 1996; IR£24, 952 in 1997; IR£10,643 in 1998; IR£10,509 in 1999; and IR£2,300 in 2000.

In 2001 the payments totalled 7,062 euro; 1,265 euro in 2002; and 12,863 euro in 2004.

Brid Cannon, now assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture, gave evidence of annual movements of cattle in and out of Murphy's alleged herd for mart and private sales, as well as slaughter.

The trial continues.


From Belfast Telegraph