Tax

Sydney couple running airconditioning business jailed after Wickenby investigation

Engel Schmidl /

A Sydney couple has been jailed following an Australian Tax Office investigation, after it was discovered the pair had been using a scheme to funnel money through Vanuatu in order to avoid paying tax.

It is the second charge to be laid under Project Wickenby this month, after the Australian Federal Police made an arrest last week.

Project Wickenby is a joint operation between the Australian Federal Police and the ATO that targets tax evasion. The ATO was given more money in the budget to continue its Wickenby investigations, with an additional $76.8 million dedicated to help fight taxpayers using offshore methods to evade tax obligations.

Paul and Lesley Mascall, along with business partner Paul Sewell, were arrested following the investigation. They were sentenced in the New South Wales District Court last Friday, with judge Richard Cogswell sentencing Paul Mascall to four years’ jail.

“As co-directors of an airconditioning company, the trio used illegal ’round-robin’ schemes, where money labelled as ‘company expenses’ was transferred to a Vanuatu account and returned ‘tax-free’ to the taxpayers’ personal accounts,” the ATO said.

Lesley Mascall was jailed for three years, with a non-parole period of 15 months. They were both found to be guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth and conspiracy to dishonestly cause a loss to the Commonwealth.

Sewell was given a suspended sentence of two years’ jail.

In a statement, the ATO said 26 people had now been convicted after Wickenby investigations.

“In the last few weeks the courts have confirmed community expectations that tax cheats will be dealt with sternly and appropriately, including by increasing sentences on appeal.”

Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said the case shows the net is “closing in on promoters and participants in offshore secrecy arrangements”.

“So if you have engaged in tax schemes that make abusive use of tax secrecy jurisdictions or have undeclared foreign income or capital gains from the sale of assets overseas, now is the time to talk to the ATO about correctly meeting your tax obligations,” he said.

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