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Lowry Trial Gets Under Way Today At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Independent Tipperary TD Mr Michael Lowry, together with the refrigeration company Garuda Ltd, have gone on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, in connection with alleged tax offences, same purportedly having been committed some 16 years ago, in 2002.

The Tipperary TD pleaded not guilty to five charges of filing incorrect tax returns on dates between August 2002 and August 2007, in relation to the sum of £248,624 (Stg) received by the company, Garuda Ltd, when Mr Lowry was a director of that company. Mr Lowry also denied four counts of failing to keep proper books of accounts.

A Jury, consisting of eight men and four women were sworn in this morning, in front of Mr Justice Cormac Quinn.

The trial hearing was moved from court No 7 to court No 9, when it convened after lunch with Mr Fred Ramberg the former CEO of a Finnish Refrigeration Company, latter known as Norpe OY, who had transacted business with Garuda Ltd.

Using a video-link from Finland, and while in the presence of a Finnish female Judge, Mr Ramberg took the oath in Finnish, before informing the Jury that his company had “an agency agreement” to pay commission to Mr Michael Lowry’s company, for sales introduced by his company here in Ireland.

Mr Ramberg agreed with prosecuting barrister Mr Remy Farrell SC, that if his company, Norpe Oy, supplied to retail outlets here in Ireland, same having been introduced by Mr Lowry; a commission would be paid to Streamline Enterprises, the trading name for Mr Lowry’s company Garuda Ltd.

The witness agreed with Revenue’s Counsel that an agency agreement, signed by both he and Mr Michael Lowry, on November 1st, 1997, outlined the final “terms of agreement”, that the agent should be entitled to a commission of 5% on all sales introduced to Norpe OY, by Mr Lowry.

Mr Ramberg further confirmed that his company’s agreement was between Norpe OY and Mr Michael Lowry, however Mr Lowry’s name had been crossed out and handwritten in its place was ‘Glebe Trust’, with an address in the Isle of Man. Mr Ramberg agreed that he had written in this change himself and he (Mr Ramberg) had also initialled that change. He was unable to indicate the date, when he actually did this. He further confirmed that he had no personal knowledge as to the identity of a company known as “Glebe Trust”.

Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Mr Lowry, informed Mr Ramberg that his client claimed he was holidaying in Spain, back in August of 2002, when a person to whom he owed money, had, in his absence, placed him under stress to make an immediate payment. Mr Ramberg confirmed that he was advised by his accounts department of the need to make necessary changes with regards to the commission outstanding. Mr Ramberg insisted that no payments were ever made by Norpe Oy, without an invoice being received, and this remained his companies strict policy at all times.

Mr Ramberg confirmed that after 1997, he had very little dealing directly with Michael Lowry, doing business mainly with Mr Patrick (Pat) Lowry, brother of the accused.

Before the video link was closed, Mr Ramberg requested a payment of €500 be paid to him by the State, who agreed that, had he travelled to Ireland, the cost to the Irish State would have been far greater, taking into account travel and subsistence, including accommodation expenses. Prosecuting barrister Mr Remy Farrell SC for Revenue agreed, with the presiding judge also in agreement.

A direct ‘Question & Answer’ statement / interview taken by Finish police, and given by Norpe accounts department employee Ms Stella Lipponen, was then read to the Jury. Ms Lipponen confirmed a payment of €388,788.12 was paid on August 28th, 2002, and that the payee invoice referred was to Glebe Trust.

Due to a technical fault in Court No 9, Ms Lipponen’s statement was not put on screen for the Jury to view, however this technical glitch is expected to be corrected by tomorrow and the statement / interview will be placed in evidence early tomorrow morning.

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