Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Accountant and sons colluded to run a fraudulent tax scheme

Auckland District Court at 69 Albert street, Auckland. Photo / File
Auckland District Court at 69 Albert street, Auckland. Photo / File

An accountant and his two sons colluded to run a fraudulent scheme that ensnared a prominent New Zealand chef.

The Auckland accountant, Tarun Ahuja, was sentenced to nine months' home detention on Friday.

His two sons - Piyush Ahuja and Ayush Ahuja - were ordered to complete six months' community detention and 300 hours community' work.

The trio was convicted earlier this year after a jury trial in the Auckland District Court, where 58-year-old Tarun was found guilty of 12 charges for false accounting, seven charges for accessing a computer for a dishonest purpose and four of making false statements in end of year accounts.

Piyush, 31, and Ayush, 28, were found guilty of eight and seven charges respectively for false accounting.

Tarun ran AEL Accountants in the Auckland suburb of Flat Bush and acted for around 150 clients.

In the case of three of these clients, Tarun supplied false accounts and false payroll information to Inland Revenue.

These false entries, that said that Piyush and Ayush had received cash wages for work done, allowed the two brothers to receive refunds from Inland Revenue because the pair had tax losses from previous years which they could offset.

One of the clients, the company of a prominent New Zealand chef, lost $35,128 because of this scam.

The offending also caused its directors stress and health issues.

Name suppression orders mean the company cannot be identified.

Judge Mary Elizabeth Sharp, who sentenced the trio, believed the company was targeted because the chef was very busy and unlikely to pick up on the fraud.

"This was a fraudulent scheme. All three defendants colluded in it. It was very dishonest," Judge Sharp said.

Another client and one of the trio's victims lost $1000 because of the scheme.
While all three men were in on the scam, Judge Sharp said Tarun was its "mastermind".

"It is very likely in this case that the two sons were obedient to their father...their father was the ringleader of the offending and who I'm satisfied probably pulled his loyal sons into it," she said.

In determining Tarun's sentence, Judge Sharp said he was at a low-risk of reoffending, had stopped running his business, was no longer a registered tax agent and was unlikely to ever work again because he was in "very poor health".

The family had also arranged a loan from a friend to pay full reparations to the victims.

The judge believed that home detention was appropriate in his case.

"Lest his victims and the general public consider that home detention is an easy and indeed easier sentence than imprisonment and an easy way out for the defendant Tarun Ahuja I wish to set them straight - it is a very difficult sentence," she said.

Judge Sharp sentenced Tarun to nine months' home detention, to be served at his house in Totara Park where his sons and their families also live.

When sentencing Piyush and Ayush, Judge Sharp said some of the aggravating features of the fraud did not apply to them as the victims were not their clients.

- NZ Herald

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