Ex-ministry official admits export fraud
By Anthony Garvey
A FORMER senior official in the Irish Department of Agricul-ture has been jailed for selling stamps and certificates that allowed UK calves to be exported to the Continent as Irish.
Colm Fox, 60, of Skerries, Co Dublin, a superintendent veterinary inspector with the Irish Depart-ment, pleaded guilty to accepting £3000 for providing officially stamped, international animal transport certificates. The UK calves were smuggled through Northern Ireland and exported as Irish to Spain and Italy from Greenore port in Eire, the court heard.
The offence related to a period in 1996 when exports were banned from mainland Europe during the BSE crisis. Had the illegal activities of the official not been detected, they had the potential to destroy the Irish live export trade, the Irish Circuit Court was told in Dublin last Friday (Jan 21).
Detective Superintendent John Gallagher warned that but for the early detection, Mr Fox could have wrecked the live export business. He testified that Mr Fox had been put under surveillance following a tip-off. Mr Fox was videoed handing over official certificates and ear-tags in return for a £3000 cheque. He was immediately suspended from his £41,000-a-year post and then resigned.
Mr Foxs defence counsel said he had been left with substantial debts following a business failure which forced him to sell the family home. His problems were compounded by a car accident, and the strain had affected his health. Mr Foxs wife, Catherine, said life became "a nightmare" because of the case. She now rarely saw her husband, who was "working for a pittance" as a vet in Britain.
Judge Elizabeth Dunne said Mr Cox had held "a position of the utmost importance in relation to the export of cattle, but breached that trust". She imposed a 12-month sentence, with six months suspended. *