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Well-known criminal challenges 11-year delay by CAB in tax demand

A man whose original tax bill from the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) ballooned because of interest and penalties on the unpaid sum over more than 11 years claims he should not have to pay such a "vast" amount of money, the Court of Appeal heard.

The man, a well-known criminal who cannot be named, was hit with a tax bill of €215,000 for the years 1993/94 and 1999/2000. He made payments totalling €40,000, reducing the bill to €178,000. In February 2002 brought an appeal against the assessment which was rejected.

The net effect of this was the monies were finally due but he claims there was an unexplained delay of 11 years before the authorities moved to enforce the demand by summons, by which stage the bill was nearly €1m because of interest and penalties. He claimed he was led to believe by gardaí that the tax bill would not be pursued.

The man brought a High Court case arguing the 11-year delay between when the final demand was made and the summons for non-payment was issued was unfair.

The High Court rejected this, but he then brought an appeal to the Court of Appeal which today heard arguments from his counsel and CAB before reserving its decision.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for the man, said there was no dispute on the facts of this case but there was an overarching supervisory function of the courts to ensure that such matters are prosecuted with speed by the authorities.

It was his client's case there was a failure by the High Court to attribute sufficient weight to the delay.

His client was entitled to an explanation for the reason for the delay by CAB in seeking to recover "vast sums of money over the years".

It was open to the appeal court to consider consider whether the tax bill should have been reduced on the basis of the reasons for the delay which have not been explained, counsel said. A person was entitled to "get on with their lives and not have a sword of Damocles hanging over them", he said.

Ben O'Floinn SC, for CAB, said there was no dispute that this taxpayer was in breach of his obligations. Under the relevant tax legislation, there is no provision for "stopping the clock" in relation to a demand but the power to stop the clock always rests with the taxpayer, he said.

Mr Justice John Edwards, on behalf of the three-judge appeal court, said they hoped to give a decision within the next couple of weeks.