Accountant in tax evasion scheme sentenced to six years jail

UPDATE 12.45pm: AN accountant "instrumental" in defrauding the Australian government of more than $4 million has been sentenced to six years jail.

Philip Eric de Figueiredo, 60, will be released on a four-year good behaviour bond after he has served two years and five months in jail.

He has already served 55 days in custody.

Justice Debra Mullins said de Figueiredo was not the "architect" and was not the "promoter" of the scheme but he did play an integral role.

She said the scheme involved inflating true business expenses, sometimes by more than 2000%, and then claiming the fake invoices as deductions through the Australian taxation system.

She said two Gold Coast phone book salesman, who ran PDC, actively sought to reduce the tax they payed and de Figueiredo created the structure to enable that process.

"You played a not insignificant and ongoing role in implementing it," she said.

"By your conduct ... You entered into an agreement with those also involved in the conspiracy to commit fraud."

Justice Mullins said music entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley wanted to hide profits from a Kostya Tsyu boxing match.

She said de Figueiredo did not devise the scheme for Wheatley, who managed John Farnham for two decades, but he was involved in creating fake invoices.

"It was a straight forward fraud," she said.

Justice Mullins said de Figueiredo had a lapse in moral judgment, that he should have refused to engage in criminal activity when asked or terminated his employment if refusal was not an option.

She said she did not accept the prosecution's assertion de Figueiredo had benefited from the scheme other than his salary and his expenses while in Australia waiting his case in court.

Justice Mullins said she had received an extensive number of references testifying de Figueiredo's action were out of character and she told him the "high esteem" many friends and family held him in had been "betrayed by your dishonesty".

She said he could never work as an accountant again and he would struggle to work at all in his small Channel Islands community.

"Your reputation is forever damaged," she said.

"When you return to Jersey this episode will not be forgotten."

 

Accountant "must have shared some of the profits": Crown

THE accountant at the centre of one of Australia's largest tax evasion conspiracy schemes, totalling more than $4 million, faces up to seven years jail.

Philip Eric de Figueiredo, 60, was not the "architect" of the scheme but more than simply a "salary employee" for Swiss-based accounting firm Strachans, the Commonwealth has argued.

Crown prosecutor Alan MacSporran showed Brisbane District Court on Tuesday emails which he claimed showed de Figueiredo was "instrumental" in setting up the off-shore schemes for two Gold Coast phone book salesman and music entrepreneur Glenn Wheatley.

He said the emails showed dishonesty in the scheme's operation early on in its development.

"Mr de Figueiredo was instrumental in establishing the structures used in the facilitation of the conspiracies," he said.

Mr MacSporran said while there was no direct evidence de Figueiredo benefited further from the scheme, there was an "irresistible inference" that he "must have shared some of the profits".

de Figueiredo has pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to defraud the Australian government of $4,006,942 between 1999 and 2005.

He was caught through the Project Wickenby tax task force which has cost more than $500 million and led to scores of arrests.

Defence barrister Phil Dunn argued his client was not living an extravagant lifestyle with a house on a tree-lined avenue on Lake Geneva.

He said de Figueiredo was living in a modest two-bedroom apartment above a police station and drove a Nissan X-Trail.

"You're not talking about a high-flyer or someone who's got some huge bonus," he said.

"He lives a modest life in a modest apartment."

Mr Dunn said his client should not become a "scapegoat for overseas tax evasion".

He said de Figueiredo grew up in Jersey, a small island off the coast of France, where his career and reputation were now ruined.

Mr Dunn noted his client's son had to deal with his father's tax evading scheme involvement being used as an ethics example during his accounting training.

He compared his client to a frog in boiling water, adapting to his company's changes, but said he should have left before his moral compass was jeopardised.

Mr Dunn said de Figueiredo was depressed being separated from his family and jail would be harder for him than others prosecuted under the scheme.

The Commonwealth has asked for six to seven years jail with parole eligibility at the half-way mark.

Mr Dunn has not articulated the head sentence he seeks but said his client should be released after serving one third of his sentence.

Justice Debra Mullins will deliver her sentence on Wednesday.


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