An Irish food importer has been jailed for six years for a garlic scam which involved labeling Chinese garlic as apples, in order to evade the very high import duty on garlic. The scam enabled the importer to evade tax due on the garlic.
The scam was uncovered when Dublin custom officials discovered 21 tonnes of garlic, masquerading under the labeling of apples, in the headquarters of Paul Begley. Investigators found Begley had evaded paying import taxes of €1.6 million, levied at 232 percent on garlic, by passing it off as apples, which only attract a low import duty of nine percent.
Begley, 46, of Begley Brother's Ltd, based in Blanchardstown, is now trying to repay the debt he evaded for four years, but still owes €700,000 according to the Irish Examiner.
TheBBCreported Judge Martin Nolan passed sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, saying a strict sentence was required to act as a deterrent as such crimes are hard to uncover. However he said that Begley was an asset to Ireland by providing employment and supporting the economy. He stated "It gives me no joy at all to jail a decent man."
The Irish Times reported that Begley's family were shocked at the severity of the prison term. They issued a statement saying the family is “devastated and heartbroken. Our employees are stunned and of course Paul is still in shock. We all are.
“It’s important to stress that what Paul did was wrong. It was a breach of EU regulations and he knows that. His family also knows that. What we can’t understand is how he received such an extraordinary sentence when every day you see people guilty of violence, drug smuggling and other shocking crimes getting much less.”
The family pointed out that Begley had fully co-operated with investigators and had agreed to pay the full debt plus any fines incurred. Their statement said "But instead we have this prison sentence. It’s shocking and it’s going to end up costing the taxpayer thousands instead of Paul paying the taxpayer thousands. It doesn’t make any sense.”