Former car dealer faces contempt hearing at high court

Former car dealer faces contempt hearing at high court
Mr Justice Michael McGrath refused to adjourn the case. File Picture.

A former car dealer faces a contempt hearing at the high court next month in the latest stage of his long running battle with a Revenue-appointed receiver who is trying to recover a €4.9m tax judgment.

Mr Justice Michael McGrath fixed an August 25 hearing date after rejecting arguments by John Alex Kane that he faced "double jeopardy" if the contempt case was heard before a September hearing of district court criminal proceedings against him.

Both cases arise from an incident last June at the vacant car showrooms of the former Kanes of Granard, Longford.

It is one of several pieces of property the receiver, Myles Kirby, is selling in a bid to recoup a 2009 judgment for €4.9m obtained by Revenue against Mr Kane related to the non-payment of tax on car sales.

It is alleged Mr Kane was seen near the former showrooms and the lock on the door was later observed to have been allegedly forced.

Mr Kane denies the allegations and denies the incident involved breach of undertakings previously given by him not to interfere with the work of the receiver.

The civil contempt case came before Mr Justice McGrath on Wednesday via a hearing to decide a preliminary application by Mr Kane, arguing the contempt case should not be heard before the criminal matter on grounds of "double jeopardy".

Mr Kane sought an adjournment, saying he had not had time to read the receiver's legal submissions, received on Monday.

Gary McCarthy SC, for Mr Kirby, opposed an adjournment, saying that was a "tactic" by Mr Kane.

The judge refused to adjourn, saying he was satisfied Mr Kane had had time to read the submissions.

Mr Kane denies damaging property and trespassing

Mr McCarthy argued there was no injustice to Mr Kane in having the civil and criminal matters run parallel.

Counsel said Mr Kane has already broken his silence concerning the charge sheet, having denied he had damaged property at Barrack Street belonging to John Healy, chartered accountant, and saying the property belonged to the estate of his father.

Mr Kane had also denied trespass and said it was a public place, he had ponies out the back and was entitled to go down there, counsel said.

The alleged contempt is of interference with the receiver's work and is different from the alleged criminal offences, he added.

Mr Kane said the undertaking referred to was "thrown into the wash" and related to all properties belonging to himself, not anyone else.

He said two gardaí due to give evidence against him in the contempt matter were agents of the State and "working for the other side" and he was also concerned that media reports of the contempt matter could prejudice his hearing in the district court.

Mr Justice McGrath said, while there were no binding legal authorities on the double jeopardy point, the "real" issue was whether there was any injustice to Mr Kane in allowing the contempt matter be heard in August.

He was not satisfied Mr Kane had shown a risk of injustice and would therefore direct the contempt matter proceed on August 25.

Having been told Mr Kane may call his mother and several family members as witnesses in the contempt case to apparently make claims concerning ownership of the showrooms premises, the judge noted, for public health reasons, only a specific number of people are permitted into a courtroom and some witnesses may have to wait nearby until called.

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