Ignatius Forde, who once addressed visiting British film-makers on the tax incentives available for investing in the Irish film industry, pleaded guilty in court to two charges of making false returns involving a total of IR£270,000.
The 48-year-old father of four is believed to be the first member of the profession in the Irish Republic to be sent to prison for tax offences.
Forde, whose family home is in Graiguecullen, County Carlow, some 40 miles from Dublin, had set up a company, Bradford Productions, to take advantage of the Irish film-making boom in the early 1990s.
As well as Braveheart, it provided payroll services to major productions such as Moll Flanders, starring Robin Wright and Morgan Freeman, and Old Curiosity Shop, with Peter Ustinov and Tom Courtenay.
The company prospered, handling up to IR£10m from various production companies. However, in 1995, Sligo Circuit Court was told last week (April 10), the Revenue Commissioners became concerned when creditors won a court order freezing Forde’s assets.
An investigation showed he had a tax liability of IR£1.4m. but had submitted returns for only about IR£400,000. His company subsequently went into receivership.
Senior counsel Paul McDermott, pleading for leniency, said the accountant acknowledged he had been ‘foolish and reckless’ but had paid a substantial penalty in terms of his business and personal life.
He had surrendered IR£29,00 in a personal account to the taxman and had pledged other money he expected to receive.
But Judge Bryan McMahon said this was a professional accountant undermining the tax system in a deliberate and calculated way and added: ‘The fact that these offences were committed in the shadow of the glamour of the film industry does not mean that the loss to the state was any less.
‘When these funds are lost, it is not the glamorous side of society that suffers – it is the weaker members.
‘The harmful effects of white-collar crime may not be as immediately visible as with crimes of physical violence, but they are as real. Teacher-pupil ratios will not be lowered, queues for hospital beds will not be reduced, unless taxes are paid.’
The judge rejected an application for leave to appeal.
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