AN ELDERLY man who admitted storing 180,000 illegal cigarettes at a farmhouse on the outskirts of the city has avoided a prison sentence.
John Bourke, aged 54, of St Mary’s, The Well Road, Singland Cross pleaded guilty, at Limerick Circuit Court to keeping the cigarettes “for sale or delivery” at Coolyhenan, Ballysimon on September 13, 2010.
During a sentencing hearing, Customs and Excise inspector, Christopher Mulqueen, told the court the cigarettes were seized following a surveillance operation.
He said counterfeit Benson and Hedges and MG-branded cigarettes were found at the shed by customs officers when they conducted a search.
Judge Carroll Moran was told the cigarettes seized had a street value of €75,000 and that they represented a potential loss to the exchequer of around €46,000.
Katherine McGillicuddy BL, said her client, who is in poor health, had cooperated with the authorities following the seizure and that he had made admissions when interviewed.
She added that he was in poor financial circumstances and had been paid €100 by “two men with Meath accents” to store the cigarettes.
Judge Moran said Bourke’s conduct had “potentially deprived the state of revenue” and he said such offences are very serious and often attract prison sentences.
“They are unfair on other persons who are dealing in the same product and complying with the law,” he said.
However, the judge noted that Bourke did not own the cigarettes and that he was acting as a store man.
In the circumstances he said he was imposing a two year prison sentence, which he suspended for two years.
Judge Moran also ordered the “condemnation” of the cigarettes seized.