The family of a man jailed for six years yesterday for tax evasion, have told RTÉ News they are "devastated and heartbroken" at the sentence he received.

Paul Begley, aged 46, avoided paying customs duty on over 1,000 tonnes of garlic from China by having them labelled as apples.

Speaking on behalf of Paul Begley and the Begley Brothers company they operate, brother Greg said: "Our family is devastated and heartbroken, our employees are stunned and of course Paul is still in shock, we all are.

"We have been inundated with messages of support from employees, friends and customers in Ireland and as far away as New Zealand and South Africa".

Reading a prepared statement Mr Begley said: "It is important to stress what Paul did is wrong, it was a breach of EU regulations, and he knows that"

He went on to say his brother Paul had "put his hands up" five years ago when revenue officials uncovered the fraud involving the importation of garlic, which he had classed as apples to avoid paying a higher duty applied to garlic.

However, they family said they could not understand why a sentence of six years was handed down, when Paul had co-operated with the investigation and the company had agreed terms to repay outstanding taxes.

Judge Martin Nolan imposed the maximum term in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday on one count and one year on another count to run consecutively, meaning a total of six years.