While Gaynor Wheatley sits at home hoping that her husband Glenn will return soon from jail, the entertainment guru’s legal team is putting together a case they believe will have him back to the matrimonial home in three months’ time.
A date for Wheatley’s appeal against his sentence of two and a half years (half of it suspended) for tax evasion has not been set, but Crikey understands his legal team is hopeful of having it expedited within three months. Even Australian Crime Commission representatives at the trial appeared to be shocked at the harsh sentence.
The legal team, led by top criminal barrister Robert Richter QC and solicitor Peter Galbally, is said to be appalled at the politically charged nature of the Wheatley trial and the actions of government departments to bring down their client. Their finger pointing apparently starts with the Commissioner of Taxation Michael D’Ascenzo and ends with Melbourne-based Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, David Adsett. Meanwhile, D’Ascenzo has been criticised for allowing a series of damaging leaks about prominent Australians to come from the Operation Wickenby bunker without being able to put a lid on it.
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“Wheatley has effectively been in stocks in the public square for nearly two years because of the constant leaks,” Richter has said. He’s adamant about the source of the leaks regarding his client — “It’s the bloody tax office.”
In an account of the shemozzle involving the negotiations with the DPP over sentencing, The Weekend Australian suggests that the DPP, Damien Bugg QC, took the final decision to seek a custodial sentence. But Crikey investigations reveal that it was Melbourne-based Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, David Adsett, who made the ultimate call.
Indeed, the letter referred to in The Oz story from the DPP to Wheatley dated 7 March 2006, reneging on the deal, was personally signed by Adsett. It is believed Bugg was on leave at the time the letter was sent, although it says, “the matter has been discussed with the director”. Bugg is set to step down as DPP next Thursday after his term expires. One of the contenders for the vacant position is Adsett, who is described by someone close to the legal team as a “welsher and zealot”.
Crikey understands that Richter met with Bugg after Adsett went back on the deal and that Bugg was very sympathetic to the Wheatley case. Apparently, Bugg was impressed by Wheatley’s level of co-operation and the fact that he had already suffered in public due to leaks from the tax office. Wheatley had joined the dots for investigators who are pursuing a Sydney-based lawyer — whose name has been legally suppressed — who is one of Swiss tax advisor Philip Egglishaw’s Australian promoters.
Richter left the meeting confident that the DPP would seek a suspended sentence. What happened between that meeting and the letter in March is open to speculation. There is no doubt that the political climate in respect of Wickenby was against Wheatley. The government was under pressure. They had allocated $305 million to fund Wickenby, with the DPP receiving about $60 million over six years.
But where were the results? The government apparently needed a trophy — so step forward Glenn Wheatley.
There’s no doubt Wheatley is a tax cheat – but should he have gone to jail? He paid back the tax he owed with penalties and interest. He also sang like a canary to investigators, which will assist them in making more charges and recouping millions of dollars in unpaid tax.
D’Ascenzo waved the white flag last week when he declared an amnesty for people concealing income and assets offshore in tax havens. My translation: We can’t get the evidence we need from the tax havens so please come forward and help me prop up Operation Wickenby results.
In return, if a person steps forward, the ATO is offering reduced penalties, and D’Ascenzo said the DPP had indicated that an indemnity for criminal prosecution may be granted in certain circumstances.
But after Wheatley, it’s a case of buyer beware!