Revenue seeking ‘pound of flesh’ in cigarette duty case

A solicitor representing a junior minister’s brother facing a charge of failing to declare €400 of cigarettes he had for sale in his shop yesterday queried why the Revenue Commissioners were seeking “a pound of flesh”.

John Daly, of the Paddock, Drinagh, Co Cork, had previously pleaded guilty to having the tobacco products for sale or delivery without having paid the required duty. Revenue sought a conviction but Judge Mary Dorgan asked Revenue to reconsider in light of Mr Daly’s “impeccable character”.

A search of the store had led to 680 cigarettes being discovered, as well as 0.3kg of tobacco. The defendant is a brother of Minister of State Jim Daly, the Cork South West TD.

Solicitor James Brooks said his client, aged 50, had been tempted due to a decline in turnover.

Meanwhile, the Revenue Commissioners in response to the judge made a lengthy legal submission giving its reasons for pursuing a conviction.

At Clonakilty District Court yesterday, State Solicitor Malachy Boohig said Revenue’s defence was “robust”, noting Mr Daly had admitted the offence and the judge’s only discretion was to strike out a case. In this case, Mr Boohig said, the offence had been admitted and the facts proved.

Mr Brooks said his client had written to Revenue within 48 hours of the offence being detected and had offered to pay a fine to avoid conviction.

“Effectively I was asking for some form of mercy from the Revenue Commissioners,” said Mr Brooks, referring to Mr Daly’s concerns over what a conviction would bring, not just now but in the future, citing travel and his job operating a post office. He said the offence had brought Mr Daly “huge embarrassment”.

Revenue had already gained a victory: “What good does it do to have this man’s head on a platter? Why the pound of flesh?”

Judge Dorgan suggested she may have to seek direction on the matter but Mr Boohig said superior court had already addressed the primacy of the state’s ability to collect revenue.

The judge said it was Mr Daly’s first offence; he had an exemplary career and, in those circumstances regarding any other offences, he would be getting some leniency.

Following the judge’s fresh appeal to Revenue to re-examine the issue, and in light of a suggestion it could jeopardise Mr Daly’s job, Mr Boohig said he would go back to Revenue.

The judge said she viewed the loss of revenue to the State as being of the utmost importance but it was “a particularly difficult case”. The matter is to be finalised on February 23.

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