by Daniel Hickey
The trial at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin of prominent republican Thomas "Slab" Murphy for alleged tax evasion has heard evidence from a forensic accountant about ledgers and cheques found in a shed during a search by the Criminal Assets Bureau.
It is the prosecution's case that, although Mr Murphy conducted significant dealings in relation to cattle and land, and received farming grants from the Department of Agriculture, he failed to make any returns to revenue.
Mr Murphy, of Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to nine charges alleging that he failed to furnish a return of his income, profits or gains or the source of his income, profits or gains to the Collector General or the Inspector of Taxes for the years 1996/97 to 2004.
Mr Murphy is being prosecuted on foot of an investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).
A forensic accountant, who works with CAB and cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court that he examined documents, including ledgers, cheques and cheque books, seized by CAB in 2006 during the search of a shed on the border with Northern Ireland.
A number of ledgers were shown to the court.
One ledger documented transactions for Thomas Murphy, the court heard.
The forensic accountant told Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, that all the entries in the ledger, which included references to properties in Manchester, were "under Tom."
Another ledger was shown to the court, which defence counsel John Kearney QC referred to as "one of the most important exhibits in the case."
The ledger is a record of the sales and purchases of cattle, as well as expenditure on cattle feed and silage, from 1997 to 2004, the court heard.
The forensic accountant gave evidence in relation to entries of expenditure and income in the ledger which were marked with a letter "T."
"I take the entry of T to refer to Thomas Murphy," he told the court.
The court also heard there were entries in the ledger for other members of the Murphy family, including the accused's brother, Patrick.
The accountant agreed with Mr Burns that "specific letters were assigned to particular individuals."
The accountant further stated that he analyzed and cross-referenced the entries in the ledger with invoices from cattle marts and with a bank account in the name of Thomas Murphy.
"There are numerous examples throughout the ledger which relate to invoices from meat factories and marts," he told the court.
Under cross-examination, the accountant told Mr Kearney, "I maintain my objectivity and independence through all of my assignments for CAB."
The court heard that the CAB investigation into Mr Murphy was called Operation Achilles.
Mr Kearney asked the accountant: "Was the aim and objective of Operation Achilles to bring Tom Murphy down?"
"I never heard of it described like that," the accountant said.
He also disagreed with Mr Kearney that, "despite the existence of separate herd numbers, this was one big farm."
"The suggestion from the defence is that Patrick Murphy is the man running that singular big herd as opposed to three separate farmers running three separate herds," Mr Kearney said.
The accountant said he believed that each member of the family "took their share of the money out of the business."
He also told Mr Kearney he was aware that Patrick Murphy paid tax.
Mr Kearney said, "What I want to suggest to you is for this big Murphy farm every single shilling of tax due was paid by Patrick Murphy or when CAB pursued him through the civil side."
"I'm broadly aware of a tax settlement of some kind," the forensic accountant said.
The trial continues.