Disgraced Burke faces trial before Easter on three tax charges

FORMER Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke is expected to go on trial on three tax-related charges at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court before Easter.

The retired politician made his second appearance before the Dublin District Court yesterday when Judge Ann Watkin heard that the Criminal Assets Bureau was also pressing two additional charges on Mr Burke.

Last month, the former Dublin North TD was charged with knowingly making a false declaration when availing of the 1993 tax amnesty.

The former leading Fianna Fáil figure who held justice, communications and foreign affairs ministerial portfolios was a serving TD at the time of the alleged offence on or around December 15, 1993.

The solicitor for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Séamus Cassidy, told the court yesterday that Mr Burke was also facing two other charges. They are related to the original charge and allege that the accused made a return to the Inspector of Taxes in 1993 which he knew to be false. Mr Cassidy said the DPP had directed that Mr Burke should be sent forward for trial on indictment to a higher court.

The book of evidence, containing eight large volumes of documents, was handed to Mr Burke in court by Detective Inspector Denis O'Leary of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Under the Waiver of Certain Tax, Interest and Penalties Act 1993, anyone convicted of such offences can face a maximum prison sentence of eight years and/or a fine of twice the sum of money not declared to the tax authorities.

Mr Burke, aged 60, of Griffith Downs, Whitehall, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Dressed in a navy suit and dark raincoat, he did not speak during the five-minute hearing, except to confirm that a bail bond document contained his signature.

Mr Cassidy said the DPP had no objection to Mr Burke being remanded on bail of €600 pending a fixing of a date for his trial.

Judge Watkin informed the accused that he would have to give notice within 14 days if he wished to rely on any alibi evidence, although she noted that such a measure was "probably irrelevant in this type of case."

Mr Burke has not applied for free legal aid, despite indicating during an earlier court appearance that he would be making such an application. The revelation that he might be seeking free legal aid initially led to widespread public outrage as he is in receipt of a combined TD and ministerial pension of about €70,000 per annum.

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