The former president of the National Institute of Accountants has been sentenced to five years in jail for tax fraud.
The judgement is one of the harshest ever handed down in a case brought by the Project Wickenby tax evasion investigation program, which attempts to find and prosecute those who have not complied with tax laws.
The convicted offender, Lynette Liles, is 66 years old and will be 71 by the time she is allowed out of prison. Despite her age, Justice Monika Schmidt of the New South Wales Supreme Court said the sentence was appropriate.
Schmidt said Liles’ offences were “repeated, deliberate, calculating and systematic fraud on Australian taxpayers”.
Liles was found to have used money laundering and other methods to help clients avoid paying tax, with the court hearing she used banks in Vanuatu to channel millions of dollars. Some of those clients have already been jailed under the Wickenby program.
Schmidt said Liles, who was president of the National Institute of Accountants from 1994 to 1996, had committed a “significant breach of trust on the part of a qualified and highly placed accountant”.
She also said the charges constitute a “significant international tax avoidance scheme”, and that there was a “serious breach of trust involved in Ms Liles offending in the context of Australia’s self-assessment tax system”.
Liles pleaded guilty to three separate charges involved conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth, with Schmidt saying her involvement was “serious indeed”.
The court also heard that Liles had deliberately withheld information from the Australian Taxation Office and Federal Police. Schmidt said that while Liles had not promoted the scheme, she had a key understanding of its operation.
The ATO has been ramping up its Wickenby program over the past few years. Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced an extra $432 million in funding for the program over the next four years.