Prison terms imposed on two Wellington accountants are the longest sentences ever handed down in a New Zealand tax case.
Barrie Skinner and David Rowley, who defrauded the Inland Revenue Department of $2.9 million, set up schemes for their clients that were sophisticated and serious breaches of trust, a judge says.
At the Wellington High Court on Friday, Justice Kos jailed Skinner for 8½ years and Rowley for eight years.
The pair were earlier convicted for dishonestly using documents, providing false information to Inland Revenue and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The charges arose from a fictitious invoicing scheme in which clients paid for services which were never delivered, and received tax and GST credits in return. Skinner and Rowley pocketed the remainder of the amounts paid.
The judge said Rowley tampered with data on a hard drive to try to change information relating to client document agreements.
"Your giving of evidence that was perjured and production of an exhibit with which you had deliberately tampered in the days prior to trial was disgraceful.
"It appears that having gained the revenue system, you then decided to try and gain the justice system as well."
Justice Kos said if he were able to, he would have added to the men's sentences to reflect that.
The judge said Rowley had told his probation officer they were simply trying to help clients improve cash flow by 'pushing the envelope' and he had just done the paperwork - but that was nonsense. He said the men weren't so much pushing the envelope, as setting fire to it.
Justice Kos said clients will end up paying twice, as they have already paid Skinner and Rowley and now have to pay IRD also.
He said Skinner and Rowley continue to lack insight into their offending, and no discount could be given for remorse.
IRD's group manager Patrick Goggin says despite their complex efforts to cheat the tax system, Skinner and Rowley failed to stay ahead of the law and the sentence shows that the court views such offending very seriously.