A County Sligo publican has been jailed for two years and a senior civil servant has been fined €30,000 for their involvement in a complex scam to defraud the Department of Agriculture.

Michael Clarke of Lismacbryan, Beltra, was found guilty by a jury in January of one count of conspiracy to steal a Department pay order for almost £27,000 and two charges of handling stolen Department cheques.

Sentencing him to two years in jail today, Judge Anthony Kennedy described this as a case of a well-to-do person driven by greed for ever more money. The guilty verdict implied that Mr Clarke "was up to his neck in dishonesty".

Judge Kennedy accepted that he was not the instigator but said he was no mere pawn. He described the operation involving remote meetings on back roads in the Ox Mountains as "clandestine giggery pokery".

Robert Patrick Walsh of Rhue, Tubbercurry, a senior Department of Agriculture official pleaded guilty to conspiring with Clarke to steal a Department pay order and was fined €30,000 or three years in jail in default.

Judge Kennedy described him as the principal on the inside, while Clarke was the principal on the outside. This was a clever insider job to cheat the system using real but concluded files to create fictitious applications for grants, the Judge said.

Walsh was a crook, a scoundrel and a fraudster, he said, ripping off the Department for the maximum he could get away with.

He said he was astonished that Walsh was granted legal aid and even more astonished that he has remained on half pay with the Department of Agriculture. "Why it has taken all this time without the Department firing him is a mystery", the Judge said.

Judge Kennedy congratulated Inspector Jerry Connolly and his team for their tenacity in pursuing the two accused.