The Irish High Court has ordered the extradition of Daniel O’Connell, the alleged “controlling mind” behind a £20 million tax fraud who is wanted in the UK for failing to pay a Confiscation Order of almost £13 million.
Mr O’Connell was initially convicted at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court on 9 August 2000, for five counts of VAT evasion which took place between 1996 and 1999. He then spent 8 years in prison before being release on licence in March 2003.
In January 2003, Mr O’Connell was made subject to a Confiscation Order of almost £6 million to be paid by May 2004. Failure to pay would mean Mr O’Connell had to serve a 7-year term of imprisonment in default. So far, Mr O’Connell has only paid £354,407.41 towards the Confiscation Order. By September 2016, the interest on the Order was £5.8m. Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued a European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”) for Mr O’Connell and he was arrested on that warrant in 2017.
The EAW stated that due to his failure to pay the Confiscation Order and associated interest, Mr O’Connell’s 7-year default prison sentence had now been activated.
Mr O’Connell opposed his extradition on several grounds including:
• undue delay – there was a 17-year gap between Mr O’Connell’s conviction and arrest and therefore the Confiscation Order was invalid;
• imprisoning him would breach his fundamental rights under the European Convention of Human Rights;
• he is currently “indigent” and can’t pay the money he owes under the Confiscation Order, therefore he should not be surrendered to serve a penalty where a wealthy person would not have to do so;
• to be jailed for 7 years in addition to the 8-year sentence already served is “disproportionate to the crime” and “disproportionate in circumstances where [Mr O’Connell] was indigent and unable to pay”; and
• he had a ten-year-old child “in the belief that he would be with her at all times”, and that he and his partner would not have had a child “if they had known that she would be left without a father … in her formative years”.
On 22 February 2019, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly rejected all of Mr O’Connell’s grounds giving the following responses to the grounds his counsel had put before the court:
• the Irish High Court can only refuse to surrender someone “where there is a real risk that his rights cannot be protected or were not protected in the issuing state because of a defect in the system of justice there such that it would be egregious to surrender him” and that in this case no evidence was submitted to support this;
• in the context of a fraud worth almost £20m, it is not disproportionate for a defendant to spent 8 years in prison and a further 7 years in prison due to his failure to pay a Compensation Order; and
• there was no suggestion that Mr O’Connell’s daughter will suffer to a greater extent than can be expected of any child whose parent has been imprisoned.
Mr O’Connell was remanded on continuing bail and will make an application to appeal the Extradition Order on 27 February 2019 at 10.30am.