Minister jailed for tax evasion
Minister jailed for tax evasion

The former Dublin government minister Ray Burke has been jailed for six months for “knowingly or wilfully furnishing incorrect information” on his tax returns.

Burke had pleaded guilty to the charges in June of last year, and the imprisonment has come as an embarrassment to the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his former cabinet colleagues.

Judge Desmond Hogan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court noted that Burke had been a participant in formulating the 1983 Finance Act under the provisions of which he was prosecuted.

“He had been in a position of trust and had abused that position,” he said.

There was a wide welcome for the sentence handed out to Burke, the first person to be jailed as a result of tribunal investigations and the first ex-minister in recent times to be imprisoned on criminal charges.

Opposition and Progressive Democrat politicians welcomed the news as a “watershed”.

The Depty Prime Minister, Tanaiste Mary Harney, said the jailing of Burke proved laws were being applied “without fear or favour” to every citizen. The Government was taking tax matters seriously and the tribunals were working well, despite criticism.

Joan Burton, Labour Party finance spokeswoman, called on the Taoiseach to apologise over his decision to handpick Burke for his government.

Mr Ahern countered that he had no evidence to prove that Ray Burke was corrupt before he appointed him to his first Cabinet in 1997.

In his only public comment since Burke received a six-month prison sentence for tax offences, Mr Ahern said he had always maintained that “the law is the law and it must be applied to everybody”.

Despite heavy advance billing, Mr Ahern faced little opposition pressure in parliament on Wednesday over the appointment.

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