Man cleared of unlawfully obtaining €29,000 in social welfare payments

A 44-year-old man has been cleared of unlawfully obtaining €29,000 in social welfare payments while he “tried to make something of himself” and helped run a car exports firm.

Boniface Nshekoh, 44, originally from Cameroon, with an address at Lansdowne Valley Park, Drimnagh, Dublin, pleaded not guilty to charges under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act. He was acquitted after giving evidence at Dublin District Court that he had been getting experience and helping out his brother-in-law who lived in Cameroon.

It was alleged that on dates between February 2012 and October 2013 he ran a business solely involved in exporting used cars and car parts to Cameroon. It was also the prosecution’s case that he made six false declarations to the social welfare authorities.

The trial heard that during this period he had bought 31 used cars and exported six cargo containers. However, since 2009 Department of Transport records showed he had bought a total of 117 used cars and customs officials were aware he had shipped 13 cargo containers.

In evidence, Mr Nshekoh said he bought car parts and previously owned cars which he exported in containers to his brother-in-law in Cameroon who in turn looked after Mr Nshekoh’s elderly parents there.

Back-to-work scheme
The business operated out of a premises rented for about €300 a month from a farmer in Straffan, Co Kildare, the trial was told.

He said he sought help from the social welfare’s back-to-work scheme to run the business himself, but they found his plan was not acceptable. He said he had wanted to start up his own business.

He claimed over several years he only received tips or “luck money” of about €50 per car for his help along with €6,000 from his brother-in- law when he was planning to take over the operation. He came to Ireland in 2000 and worked for several years but lost his job when the recession began, he said.

In 2009, he began helping his brother-in-law with the car business but he was not employed by him, he said, he was getting experience.

Defence solicitor Joseph Coonan said his client got tips of €50 per car which in total over seven years amounted to €5,850.

He had been entitled to the Jobseekers Allowance, was not working and should not be punished for “trying to make something of himself”, Mr Coonan argued.

Judge John Brennan said it was a big enough business but noted Mr Nshekoh’s parents were looked after by his brother-in-law in Cameroon.

He had also co-operated with the investigation. Dismissing the case, the judge said Mr Nshekoh had appeared honest and he accepted his evidence.

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Nasha Gazeta