The Day When the US Tax Authorities Found Al Capone ‘Touchable’ | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


The Day When the US Tax Authorities Found Al Capone ‘Touchable’

With tax evasion and avoidance in the UK news so much at the moment, we thought readers would be interested in reading this BNA press release based on two stories in the Archive about the trial of Al ‘Scarface’ Capone for tax evasion.


In 1931, the penalty in the US for tax evasion was 11 years in prison

Eighty-one years ago, American gangster Al Capone was found guilty of 5 of the 23 income tax evasion charges he faced and was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.

In the past, punishment for tax evasion was severe. When Al Capone was convicted for tax evasion he was refused bail, sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment and fined £10,000 (In today’s terms £530,000) According to the prosecution, Capone owed the US Government at least £50,000 (in today’s terms £2,650,000) in taxes – he had not paid a penny either in his own name or in any of his other alleged aliases.

Evening Telegraph – Wednesday 4th May 1932
Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The British Newspaper Archive holds newspapers that covered his trial and an extract from ‘The Cornishman’ of 29 October 1931 documented Capone’s arrival at the courthouse: “He was guarded by a fully armed bodyguard and his motor car which cost him £4,000 was armoured and bullet-proof. Shrapnel and buckshot splattered off it like raindrops.

The newspaper goes on to describe the atmosphere when the judge read out Al Capone’s sentence: “It was a scene of intense drama when the sentence was pronounced. Capone was momentarily appalled by its severity, but kept firm control of himself”.

Debra Chatfield, Marketing Manager at The British Newspaper Archive, comments: “The trial of Al Capone is just one example of the many fascinating stories that are waiting to be uncovered at the click of a mouse. Thousands of newspaper pages are scanned every day and the online Archive is nearing 6 million pages this month, one year since its launch, so you can search through the billions of stories within seconds and all from the comfort of your own home.”

Nottingham Evening Post – Wednesday 17th June 1931

Image © Northcliffe Media Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.


About The British Newspaper Archive

1. The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership project between the British Library and brightsolid. From November 2011 to 2021, up to 40 million pages from historical newspapers across the UK and Ireland (spanning the period, 1700 to 1950) will be uploaded to the website.

2. The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection.

3. brightsolid began life in 1995 as Scotland Online and is a leading UK independent provider of IT business services to large public and private sector organisations. The online publishing division of brightsolid has significant expertise in the digitisation and management of archival records, and works in partnership with the British Library, the National Archives and the National Records of Scotland. Headquartered in Dundee, the company is owned by the publishers D.C. Thomson and has offices in Edinburgh and London.


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