'Slab' Murphy: Tax evasion jail term for alleged ex-IRA chief

Image copyright PA
Image caption Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was prosecuted after a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) investigation

Alleged former IRA "chief of staff", Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for tax evasion.

He was convicted of nine charges at the Republic of Ireland's non-jury Special Criminal Court in December.

Murphy, who lives at Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, County Louth, on a farm that straddles the border with Northern Ireland, had denied the charges.

He was prosecuted after a Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) investigation.

Who is 'Slab' Murphy?

Vincent Kearney, BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

This was far from any ordinary, run-of-the-mill tax case.

The man involved had been a high-profile target for the police and other law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border for decades.

Thomas "Slab" Murphy claims he is just a farmer.

But he is also alleged to have been one of the most powerful figures within the Provisional IRA.

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During the trial, the court's three judges were told he had significant dealings in cattle and land and received farming grants, but failed to submit tax returns for nine years.

At a post-trial hearing earlier this month, the prosecution said Murphy owed the Irish Exchequer almost 190,000 euros (£150,000) in unpaid taxes for his farming business.

Image caption Murphy's home, on a farm in County Louth, straddles the border with Northern Ireland

During a series of raids by the CAB in 2006, officers seized significant cash sums in different currencies - 256,235 euros (£202,000) and £111,185.

They also seized 673,460 euros (£531,000) in uncashed cheques.

A number of ledgers, documents and computers were also uncovered.

Image caption CAB officials seized significant cash sums in different currencies from Murphy's home

Before they jailed Murphy, the three judges at the Special Criminal Court said they had taken a number of factors into account, including the 66-year-old's age, the amount of time he had spent on bail and his lack of previous convictions.

They also said that there had been a lot of media coverage about Murphy's alleged past, following the guilty verdict in December, but the judges added that this coverage did not influence them when they were deciding his sentence.

They said that during the case, the accused had been treated as a farmer and cattle dealer with no past or present associations.

Murphy, who works as a yardsman for a business in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, did not give evidence during the 32-day trial.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Murphy outside the Special Criminal Court in Dublin earlier this month

After the sentencing, a statement was issued on his behalf in which he said he was an innocent man and intended to appeal his conviction.

Speaking to journalists before Friday's hearing started, he was asked if he would go on to the republican wing if he was sent to prison.

Murphy replied: "I've no idea, I've never been in jail before."

When asked if he might now write a book on his experiences, he said: "Ah, ye (you) have all written it already."

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