Veteran Republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for tax evasion.

The 66-year-old, with an address at Ballybinaby, in Co Louth was found guilty on nine counts of failing to file tax returns between 1996 and 2004.

At the Special Criminal Court this morning, Murphy was sentenced to 18 months for each count to run concurrently.

He denied the charges but the court was satisfied that he was farming and dealing in cattle and was "a chargeable person" for tax.

Murphy was prosecuted on foot of an investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau which, in March of 2006, raided his home along the border at Ballybinaby. 

The CAB found black bags with more than €250,000 and £199,000 in cash as well as cheques and documentation relating to the oil industry hidden in bales of hay in a outhouse.

They also discovered ledgers recording the buying and selling of cattle with 'T' for Tom, with references to Manchester properties "under Tom" and codes which a CAB forensic accountant testified still could not be deciphered.

There was also evidence during the trial that Thomas Murphy had a bank account in the Permanent TSB in Dundalk with a total debit of over €624,000, a total credit of almost €670,000.

The Special Criminal Court said it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Murphy was farming and dealing in cattle and that he had received income from the sale of cattle and used that for his own benefit.

It also said he could not have been unaware that he did not have to pay tax because his brothers were also involved with him and they had made tax returns and settlements with the Revenue Commissioners.

Read: Evidence stood the test of time - CAB

Before passing sentence the court required evidence in relation to other cases where people had been convicted for similar offences. 

They wanted to know how these cases could relate to that of Murphy.

Ten cases were outlined to the judges by the prosecution where people convicted of similar offences were fined and or given suspended and custodial sentences, ten of the 11 accused had been sent to prison.

In mitigation Murphy's defence counsel said a distinction had to be made between omission and commission of an offence, and that his pension had been seized and tax had been paid by his brother in relation to a number of the charges.

He also said the loss to the exchequer was not as great as suggested and that Murphy had no previous convictions.

As well as the more than €189,000 he owes for the nine years in this case, CAB has also issued him with another tax assessment for over €5m.

The judges took into consideration that he was 66, had no previous convictions, the considerable time he had spent on bail and the fact that he was currently employed. 

Mr Justice Paul Butler also said that Murphy was not being punished for contesting the case but had he pleaded there would have been a very significant mitigating factor.

He said there was no basis for suspending any of the sentence and community service was not appropriate 

He also said he feels the court finds it necessary to mention that the case received widespread publicity and comment and had there been a jury it would have been difficult to ensure that all jurors would have been unaffected.

However, he said, this court has been in no way influenced by any publicity and the accused has been treated as a farmer and cattle dealer with no past or present associations.

In a statement issued via his solicitor, Murphy said he maintains his innocence in respect of the charges and has instructed his legal team to "pursue an appeal immediately".