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Tax dodger 'Slab' Murphy could get slap on the wrist - The Irish News
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Tax dodger 'Slab' Murphy could get slap on the wrist

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, who owns a farm in Co Louth straddling the border, pictured outside the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson, PA Wire

THOMAS 'Slab' Murphy could avoid spending any serious time behind bars when he is sentenced by a Dublin court next year.

The Co Louth farmer, whose land straddles the border, has been convicted in the Republic's non-jury Special Criminal Court of failing to make tax returns to Revenue Commissioners between 1996 and 2004.

Ahead of sentencing on February 12, the three trial judges have asked prosecutors to provide details of sanctions for similar convictions.

They also want to know how previous cases compare to Murphy's and have asked for an estimate for how much his tax-evading activities have cost the southern Exchequer.

For years, the alleged former IRA chief of staff, who has always denied any involvement in paramilitary activities, has been the focus of numerous cross-border investigations by the PSNI, gardaí and customs officials.

The BBC's 'Underworld Rich List' estimated Murphy had amassed between £35-40m over the past 35 years, smuggling pigs, grain, oil and cigarettes.

However, Judge Butler said on Thursday while the court was aware of publicity surrounding Murphy's "unconnected activities", it had "no bearing whatsoever upon the Revenue charges brought against the accused in these proceedings and the court is in no way influenced by that publicity".

The courts are not in the habit of imposing hefty prison sentences on tax evaders in the Republic.

According to the Revenue Commissioners' annual report for 2014, they secured 16 criminal prosecutions for "serious" tax evasion during that year.

Custodial sentences ranging from just three months to nine months were imposed in three cases, while a further five received suspended sentences.

Fines amounting to €57,250 were imposed.

In many cases, partial or entire sentences are suspended, meaning that Murphy, who had pleaded not guilty to all charges, could effectively escape with a slap on the wrist when his sentence is imposed.

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