Dodgy accountant gets musican six months grace

One half of Westmeath’s most famous duet, Mr Tony Allen, was given a six month reprieve in court this week (September 16 ) in his ongoing case against not filing annual tax returns in time, when the judge referred to a letter of reassuarance from his former accountant as “a forgery”.

Mr Allen (60 ) of Killeenatoore, Mount Temple, Moate was before Judge John Neilan after failing to ensure his annual tax returns were filed for the four years between 2003 and 2007 and was facing a fine of up to €12,000.

His case had been adjourned from June 10 to allow his accountant Mr Patrick Russell, who has business addresses in Mullingar and Tullamore, answer a summons and explain how he failed to make these returns, but he again refused to turn up, despite being paid “about €30,000 over the years” by Mr Allen.

The judge accepted this summons would not be served after hearing how Mr Russell, a former barrister and businessman who was jailed in July 2007 for defying a High Court judge, was recuperating from a stroke in the UK.

In court this week, Mr Allen told the judge how he had a letter from Mr Russell saying that his affairs had been put in order and couldn’t understand how he then got this summons from the tax authorities.

“He’s got all the the papers, receipts, bank statements, everything,” said Mr Allen.

“I asked him to return these files but he only returned some of them”.

This folder was handed in to Judge Neilan who noted it contained a large number of blank pages signed by Mr Allen.

“You’re after signing a legal document,” said the judge.

Mr Allen told the court he did, but only after Mr Russell told him to.

He went on to say that after he got this summons he met with a Ms Mary Keel, secretary to Mr Russell, who gave him a letter saying all his tax affairs were in order. A copy of this was handed in to the court.

“You’ve given evidence of putting total trust in Mr Russell. Were you aware of his reputation?” asked the judge.

“I was not aware of any reputation,” said Mr Allen.

“I got the call for Revenue last July. I had believed all my affairs were normal prior to this call.

“I knew I was in trouble. I phoned Patrick Russell and he said all was in order.” He told Judge Neilan that Russell’s retention of his papers was causing “loads of problems for my present accountants”.

“I had no intention of defying Revenue,” he said.

In cross examination, Mr Peter D Jones for the State asked Mr Allen if he was given a blank recording contract would he sign it?

“I would if it was a good one,” said Mr Allen.

He admitted to Mr Jones he had been in contact with Mr Russell “about three times a year”, but that “he doesn’t answer the phone to me any more”.

The court heard how Russell had been in the UK since September and was living permanently there since February.

Ms Keel had also emigrated, the court heard, and was now resident in Wales.

Mr Allen told Mr Jones he had retained a new firm of accountants but could not say exactly when his outstanding tax returns would be filed. He estimated “three or four months”.

“On your oath can you say you got this letter from Mr Russell and did you genuinely believe it to be a letter from the Revenue office?” asked Mr Jones.

“I did,” said Mr Allen.

“It’s a forgery,” said the judge.

“Is there any other word for it, Mr Jones?”

“No, judge,” said Mr Jones.

Mr Allen’s business partner, Mick Foster then took the stand and confirmed Russell’s position with the musicians’ finances.

“If you can’t trust a barrister, who can you trust?” he said, when asked why they had believed Russell’s promises.

“Stupidly, we took every word he said.”

“They placed total and utter trust in a professional,” said Allen’s solicitor, Mr Cormac Lohan.

In summation, Judge Neilan again declared he believed the Russell letter of reassurance to be “a forgery”.

“I believe Mr Allen...he placed all his trust in Mr Russell who didn’t behave in an appropriate fashion.

“Mr Allen has not personally failed to make the [tax] returns.

“There are certain professions like doctors and lawyers - you don’t challenge them.

“I accept Mr Allen as an honest and truthful witness...and he should be allowed time to put his house in order”.

Judge Neilan adjourned ruling until March 24 next “so that Mr Allen could “get on with his life and not be looking over his shoulder”.


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