Judge Elizabeth McGrath said Lar Corbett, who has two All-Ireland medals, was an “honest and fair witness” but said there was a “lack of a proper stocktaking process” at the pub.
Mr Corbett, the nominee of his company Marlstone Investments, denied breaching Revenue legislation by having 16.1 litres of spirits for sale at his pub in Thurles, Co Tipperary, without having paid the appropriate rate of tax.
The offence was detected by Revenue officials after a visit to his Coppinger’s Bar on Parnell St, Thurles, on January 29, 2015. The court heard in September a sample from one of 23 bottles taken from Coppinger’s Bar was found by the state laboratories to be “neither pure vodka nor… Smirnoff vodka”. which it purported to be. An expert from Diageo said the closure on a bottle given to him for testing was “fake” and the Smirnoff labelling was “fake”.
Two customs and excise officials told the court that both visual inspections and the use of an ‘authenticator’ showed up discrepancies on a number of bottles labelled as Smirnoff vodka. They said further testing revealed the spirit in the seized bottles to be “counterfeit vodka”.
Lar Corbett took the witness stand yesterday and was presented with one of the counterfeit bottles and a genuine bottle of Smirnoff vodka. He said that he could not tell them apart.
He named a wholesaler’s and an off-licence where he had bought all the vodka and said he had since changed suppliers. He had receipts and told the officials to call him if they had any further questions.
Asked in court if he had changed the way he purchases vodka or any other spirits, he said: “Keep away from Smirnoff… We are with Huzzar now. After this scenario, I didn’t want to get into another fix like this.”
Under cross-examination, he accepted the “buck stops” with him over the premises and its stock but said he thought he did take reasonable care to ensure there were no counterfeit goods in the pub. He did not have “a recording system” at that time for keeping track of stock orders, he said.