Real-life case studies
Underpinning the numbers and facts are the personal stories of the lives affected by Project Wickenby.
Here are two real-life case studies that depict the impact of Project Wickenby on people who thought they could operate above the law and get away with it.
IT consultant sentenced to six years jail for tax fraud
The offender was the founder of a successful IT consultancy company when he became involved with a corrupt accountancy firm. The owner of that firm offered the offender the opportunity to participate in a tax scheme. The scheme involved the offender’s company transferring money to bank accounts in Australia and New Zealand which were then transferred to foreign companies operating in Vanuatu. These ‘transfers’ were disguised as business expenses on the company books and were also declared as such on his company tax returns, significantly reducing the company’s taxable income. Over four years he transferred more than a million dollars of bogus expenses.
Using information provided by AUSTRAC, the ATO was able to track the money being sent offshore, before returning a short time later into the offender’s personal bank accounts. He was approached by the AFP and later convicted of a number of tax fraud offences. His initial sentence of three years and four months in jail was appealed by the CDPP for being inadequate, given the nature of the offences, as well as the fact they impacted the whole community. His sentence was increased to six years, with a three-and-a-half year non-parole period.
Accountant sentenced to three and a half years jail for fraudulent tax scheme
While working as a junior accountant at a Sydney accountancy firm, the offender was directed by the firm’s owner to prepare false financial accounts to underpin fraudulent tax returns lodged with the ATO on behalf of the firm’s clients. In the scheme, money was transferred from Australian companies to entities controlled from the tax haven of Vanuatu as false expenses or fictitious loans. Over the years, his role in promoting this set up became more involved as the schemes became more complex and more of the firm’s clients became involved.
ATO audits of the firm’s clients led auditors to strongly suspect the firm’s involvement as promoter of the schemes. The firm attempted to mislead the ATO by fabricating documents and ‘rehearsing’ fake responses for meetings with ATO investigators. This plan unravelled as the investigation unfolded, ultimately leading to the successful prosecution. He was convicted and his initial sentence, a 500-hour Community Service Order was overturned on appeal by the CDPP. He wound up with a three-and-a-half year jail sentence with a two year non-parole period.