A man who swindled the Inland Revenue Department of $683,000 has been jailed for two years and six months.
Gurpreet Singh, 25, of Te Puke was today sentenced in Tauranga District Court after last month pleading guilty to 97 tax evasion charges.
The court was told that Singh arrived in New Zealand in September 2002 on a temporary immigration permit that expired in 2003.
A 2006 IRD investigation revealed that in October 2005 Singh became involved in a tax evasion scheme.
Singh obtained a false driver's licence and used it to create bogus identities and obtain IRD numbers to set up horticultural companies so he could issue false invoices for work completed by other contractors.
Payment was then returned to the contractor who completed the work. Singh was paid a fee for providing this service.
Inland Revenue estimated Singh issued invoices and cashed cheques totalling at least $3.4 million, evading $683,604 in tax, by failing to file returns or pay tax. Investigators matched Singh's handwriting on invoices and discovered he had large deposits into his personal bank accounts.
Singh's lawyer Craig Horsley said Singh was not the mastermind behind the scheme, but was merely an invoice writer being used as a "conduit" by others.
But Crown prosecutor Larry Meredith said while he accepted Singh was not the top of the fraud pyramid, he was one of its "lieutenants".
Judge Louis Bidois told Singh he deserved credit for having pleaded guilty to all charges before trial and for co- operating with the IRD. But he said despite Singh being a first time offender, a deterrent sentence was warranted.
"A clear message must be sent to you, and other people who come to work in New Zealand, that ripping off our tax system in any way will not be tolerated."
- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES