Sentence due for garlic importer Begley

Judges will rule today on what sentence to impose on a businessman who appealed against a six-year jail term for tax evasion on imported garlic.

Paul Begley was imprisoned last March over a €1.6m garlic import duty scam.

Three judges at Dublin’s Court of Criminal Appeal previously ruled his sentence - the longest ever handed down for tax fraud of its kind – was excessive and disproportionate.

But they warned the 47-year-old, who admitted labelling more than 1,000 tonnes of garlic imported from China as apples, that his tax evasion was a serious matter carried out with premeditation over a period of time for personal gain.

Begley, of Rathcoole, Co Dublin, was head of Ireland’s largest fruit and vegetable company, Begley Brothers Ltd, when he avoided paying a higher tax of up to 232% on garlic. Fruit and vegetables have rates as low as 9%.

While his conviction centred on a sample four charges of avoiding tax totalling just over €85,000, the trial judge was told the total fraud was about €1.6m and that Begley had been paying off debts of €33,000 a month.

The maximum sentence for each count is five years in prison, or a €10,000 fine, or treble the amount of the duty avoided, whichever was the largest sum.

Appealing against the sentence his barrister Patrick Gageby told the court his client faced several consequences as a result of his actions, including a five-year disqualification as a director since the day he pleaded guilty.

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