A Queensland man who was a mastermind behind a tax evasion scheme about 20 years ago has been sentenced to six years in jail.
Philip Bruce Northam pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court to conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth between 1999 and 2001.
The 60-year-old was a co-conspirator in a scheme to strip companies of their assets so they were unable to pay large outstanding tax debts.
Fifteen companies took part in the scheme that used sham loans and offshore bank accounts.
‘The target companies were then rendered insolvent, placed into liquidation and ultimately wound up,’ crown prosecutor Laura-Leigh Manville told the court on Monday.
Prior to taking part in the scheme the businesses were solvent and able to pay their debts.
Queensland accountants Robin David Huston and Brian Francis Fox and Victorian businessman Ian Sidney Henke were convicted in 2011 over their involvement and sentenced to time in jail.
A senior Vanuatu official Clarence Lawry Marae was sentenced in 2013 over his involvement. He was arrested while passing through Sydney airport with Vanuatu’s prime minister at the time, Sato Kilman, en route to Israel.
A total of $4.59 million in tax was put at risk between July 1999 and May 2001, but the Australian Taxation Office recovered most of it.
Northam promoted and sold the scheme to others like Huston and Fox.
The court heard he received about $222,000.
Ms Manville told the court Northam engaged in ‘grossly dishonest’ conduct for a substantial financial benefit.
‘This defendant was instrumental in the organisation, promotion (and) creation of pro forma documents,’ she said.
A warrant for Northam’s arrest was issued in 2008, but he was in Vanuatu at the time and apprehended nine years later when returning to Australia for medical treatment.
The court heard Northam was involved in charitable volunteer work in Vanuatu and has no previous convictions.
Judge Michael Byrne sentenced Northam to six years in jail, with a non-parole period of 12 months.