Question for Gerry Adams: Is Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy still “a good republican”?

As the BBC reports, 66-year-old Thomas Murphy has been found guilty of nine charges of tax evasion at Ireland’s non-jury Special Criminal Court.

When, in March 2006, there was a series of co-ordinated raids on properties in the UK and Ireland connected to Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy – who had been named previously as both the UK’s richest smuggler and a former Provisional IRA Chief of Staff – the Sinn Féin president, now Louth TD, Gerry Adams declared,

“Tom Murphy is not a criminal. He’s a good republican. I read his statement after the Manchester raids. I believe what he says. He’s also, and very importantly, a key supporter of the Sinn Féin peace strategy and has been for a very long time.”

As a result of those raids, Operation Achilles, the Dublin High Court granted Ireland’s Criminal Assets Bureau an order, in 2008, confiscating over €635,000 recovered from properties in Ballybinaby, Hackballscross in Co Louth.

Today the High Court granted them an order confiscating over €635,000. Mr Justice Frank Clarke said he was satisfied the money was the proceeds of crime and the total, made up of €435,000 and stg£150,000, will be handed over to the Exchequer.

In addition it was reported at the time that

More than €625,000 in cash and cheques have been confiscated in the South while £445,000 (573,000 euro) and nine properties in the north-west of England were recovered by UK authorities. A garda spokesman said the settlement was the culmination of a global crime and fraud investigation into the proceeds of crime.

“Today’s proceedings are the culmination of intensive investigations by the Criminal Assets Bureau and the UK’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency,” gardai said. “Both agencies have co-operated extensively, working in partnership to achieve today’s outcome.” The Irish leg of the investigation was settled in Dublin’s High Court today while the UK’s seizure was finalised in a Manchester court yesterday.

Significantly, the 2008 RTÉ report added

Thomas Murphy is still before the courts on charges facing tax offence charges. His brothers, Patrick and Frank, have reached tax settlements with the Criminal Assets Bureau for a figure understood to be over €1m.

As this 2010 post notes, Thomas Murphy continued to challenge the tax evasion charges – specifically, nine charges that he failed to furnish a return of his income, profits or gains to the Collector General or the Inspector of Taxes for the years 1996/97 to 2004 – and on the charges being heard in the non-jury Special Criminal Court, in particular.  More on that court battle here.

As noted at the start of this post, the Dublin Special Criminal Court has finally delivered its verdict.  From today’s RTÉ report

The three judges found [Thomas Murphy] guilty of failing to furnish tax returns on his income as a cattle farmer between 1996 and 2004.

The court rejected his defence that the farming activity was controlled by his brother, Patrick Murphy, who along with his other brother had already made a settlement with the Revenue Commissioners

Murphy, 66, of Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, was remanded on bail for sentencing.

The Special Criminal Court found today that Thomas “Slab” Murphy was a chargeable person and should have paid tax.

The trial heard that Murphy had traded in over €370,000 worth of cattle in five years and had been paid over €100,000 in farm grants over eight years.

He was prosecuted on foot of a Criminal Assets Bureau investigation, which during a search at an outhouse found bags with over €250,000 and over £111,000 sterling in cash, aswell as documentation, diaries and ledgers.

The court said it was satisfied he was farming and dealing in cattle and that he had received income from the sale of cattle and used  that for his own benefit.

The Irish Times-hosted PA report adds

Judge Paul Butler, presiding in the non-jury court, remanded Murphy on continuing bail ahead of sentencing.

“The court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that in the case of each of the individual accounts on the indictment the accused is guilty,” he told the court.

The sentencing issue will be mentioned in court on February 12.

Dressed in a brown jacket, trousers and a pink open-neck shirt, Murphy sat alone in the public gallery for the verdict.

A number of friends and relatives sat separately a short distance away.

During his closing submission, defence senior counsel John Kearney had told the court it was Murphy’s brother Patrick who ran the operation at Ballybinaby and controlled the finances of the farm.

It was also alleged during the trial that some of the documents purported to have been signed by Murphy had been forged.

Opening the judgment, Judge Butler said the court was aware of widespread publicity around the trial and references to Murphy’s “unconnected activities”.

He said: “While the court is wholly aware of that publicity, it has 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.”

Adds From today’s UTV report

Reacting to the verdict, Mr Adams emphasised that Murphy has strongly contested the allegations.

“I have no comment to make until the legal process has been concluded,” he said.