Two men have been convicted of serious tax offences following successful investigations under the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT).
A 61 year old former financial advisor was on Friday convicted in the Sydney District Court for tax fraud offences totalling over $700,000. Jeffrey Conklin was sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment with a non-parole period of two and a half years.
Mr Conklin used a scheme involving various off-shore entities and trusts to hide his income and then attempted to conceal the return of this income to Australia. He subsequently left Australia and was arrested at the border when attempting to re-enter the country in June 2014.
ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said the conviction demonstrates the value of cross-agency investigations in detecting and dealing with offenders.
“We use every resource available by working closely with partner agencies to identify and prosecute these criminals. Those who commit tax fraud are stealing from the entire community and will be brought to account for their actions,” Mr Cranston said.
This verdict follows a second successful tax crime prosecution on 29 April 2016, when Timothy Charles Pratten was convicted and sentenced on re-trial in the NSW Supreme Court to five years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of two years, for failing to declare income in his income tax returns for the financial years ending 30 June 2003 to 2009.
The 55 year old former insurance company director used a web of offshore entities in Vanuatu, including trusts and companies, to conceal approximately $4.552 million in income from the ATO, resulting in a tax shortfall of approximately $2.055 million. Mr Pratten used these funds to support a lavish lifestyle, buying multiple properties, a helicopter and luxury boat.
In a separate jury trial, Mr Pratten was convicted of attempting to remove the boat from Australia which was subject to a Proceeds of Crime restraining order. The offender engaged in this conduct while on bail, and additionally, during some of this time, while on trial for the tax fraud offences (the first time he was tried for these offences). He was fined $10,000.
The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) lodged appeals with the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) against both sentences imposed on Mr Pratten as it was of the view that the sentences imposed were manifestly inadequate for the crimes he committed.
On Friday 17 March 2017 the CCA (Basten JA with Campbell and Adams JJ agreeing) held that the sentences imposed by the lower courts were affected by specific error as well as being manifestly inadequate and/or inadequately accumulated.
Mr Pratten was re-sentenced for the offending as follows:
- For the tax fraud offences fixed a single non-parole period of 3 years 9 months (20 January 2016 – 19 October 2019). He will be first eligible for parole on 19 October 2019;
- For the Proceeds of Crime offence, imposed a term of imprisonment for 6 months (from 20 January 2016 to 19 July 2016). This is partially accumulated with counts 1-2 of the tax fraud offences.
Overall, he was re-sentenced to a head sentence of 6 years and 4 months, with a non-parole period of 3 years and 9 months.
CDPP Deputy Director Shane Kirne said abuse of the tax system through intentional and dishonest behaviour is a very serious offence, that warrants the imposition of strong penalties.
“These offenders both used calculated and deliberate tactics to attempt to evade their tax obligations,” Mr Kirne said.
The two guilty convictions, and appeal outcome in Pratten, are successful results under the SFCT, established 1 July 2015, which focuses on serious international tax evasion as well as other criminal activities related to phoenix businesses and abusive use of trusts.
“By sharing intelligence under the Taskforce we can build a detailed understanding of the criminal activity and ensure offenders face the full force of the law,” Mr Cranston said.
Agencies forming the SFCT include the Australian Federal Police, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Crime Commission, Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution and Australian Border Force.
CDPP Media contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 6206 5708
UPDATE: On 22 November 2017, the NSW CCA refused Mr Conklin's application for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence.