Garlic fraudster free in 7 months

Businessman Paul Begley will be freed from jail in less than seven months after his record six-year sentence over a €1.6m garlic import duty scam was cut.

Garlic fraudster free in 7 months

There were emotional scenes in court as the jailed businessman was told he must serve two years in prison, backdated to Mar 9 last year.

The 47-year-old father is due to be freed in September, with remission.

Begley kissed his wife Diane and hugged his family and friends as the ruling was delivered by the three judges of Dublin’s Court of Criminal Appeal.

Dressed in a pinstripe suit, Begley had chatted at ease with Sean Quinn Jr in a corridor outside the courtroom before the brief hearing.

The pair served time together in Mountjoy’s training unit, where Quinn was jailed for contempt of court last summer.

Quinn and his brother-in-law Niall McPartland — who were both in the Four Courts for a separate case — had also met members of the Begley family in the coffee shop complex ahead of the hearing.

After the hearing, Begley, of Rathcoole, Co Dublin, spent about 10 minutes with family and friends before being led away by prison officers to go back to Mountjoy.

A family spokesman said they welcomed the decision.

“They are very grateful for all the messages of support and prayers they have received over the last few months,” the spokesman said.

The Court of Criminal Appeal last month ruled that the six years imposed on Paul Begley — the longest ever sentence for an offence of this kind — was disproportionate and yesterday said the appropriate penalty was two years.

Mr Begley, aged 47, a married father-of-three from Rathcoole, was returned to prison yesterday where he is likely to stay until sometime in July.

The Court of Criminal Appeal backdated the two years to when he first went into prison in March last year, which means that, under the prison remission system, he could get up to eight months, or one-third, off his sentence. He can also apply for temporary release.

Mr Begley was head of fruit and vegetable company Begley Brothers Ltd, when he avoided paying customs duty on more than 1,000 tonnes of garlic imported from China that was labelled as apples, which have a much lower tax rate.

He later reached an agreement with Revenue to repay in instalments the €1.6m in estimated evaded duty from 2003 until 2007.

Yesterday, on behalf of the three-judge appeals court, Mr Justice William McKechnie said there cannot be any doubt but that the charges against him were serious and constituted a significant infringement of the criminal law.

“Equally so was the manner of their commission, being well and carefully planned, even if in-depth sophistication was not required,” he said.

They were carried out over a prolonged period and involved premeditated acts of deception with the motive of advancing himself and his company, Mr Justice McKechnie said.

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