Last October I raised a couple of issues about the Graham Richardson case and asked why a simple case of straight out tax evasion involving alleged indictable offences wasn’t being pursued by the DPP. Now it appears the ATO is throwing the book at him!
The most serious allegation is that Richo lied under oath in a formal record of interview with ATO auditors on 17 March 2005 about his knowledge of $1,442,000 in a Swiss bank account. Most taxpayers comply with ATO requests for information and these are dealt with informally. But Richardson seems to have been playing hard ball with the auditors, as the audit report reveals: “Following (Mr Richardson’s) failure to disclose the income of $1,442,000 he took extraordinary precautions to prevent the (tax) Commissioner from becoming aware of the undisclosed income.”
When auditors are faced with hindrance by taxpayers they will not hesitate to use the draconian powers of section 264 of the Tax Act.
Auditors served a formal notice on Richardson to attend and give evidence before them under oath. Unlike police matters where you don’t have to submit to a formal record of interview with coppers, for tax offences you will not only be prosecuted for not giving evidence but also for not taking the oath. I’m sure you’ve heard many times that the ATO has more power than the police and here’s a prime example of its coercive powers!
Susannah Moran, the author of the article, is right that Richardson could face criminal charges and that the ATO may refer the case to the DPP. Not only that but under the formal ATO/DPP prosecution guidelines the Richardson case must be referred to the DPP.
When you consider that the ATO and the DPP have prosecuted a businessman in Newcastle for tax fraud of $139,852 where he received a jail sentence for two and a half years, a former Sydney company director to five and a half years jail for falsely claiming over $600,000 in GST refunds and a labourer from Bankstown in Sydney to 18 months jail for lodging fraudulent tax returns totalling $219,873, the Director Damien Bugg QC should be jumping out of his tree to get a piece of the action.