An accountant with links to the Plutus Payroll tax fraud has been jailed for eight years for knowingly washing hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money.
The NSW District Court sentenced Philip Scahill to 13 years, with eight-and-a-half years non-parole, for laundering more than $750,000 for a Sydney airport maintenance worker who was smuggling tonnes of cocaine into the country from South America.
Mr Scahill disguised Anthony Parker’s ill-begotten funds through property developments, a fake trust account, questionable loans and “consulting” fees in 2013 and 2014.
Judge Michael King on Friday rejected that Mr Scahill was merely a “facilitator” in the laundering and held that he was in fact “the architect” of what he described as a sophisticated scheme.
“I regard his moral culpability in regards to the money-laundering offences as being of the highest character,” he said.
Mr Scahill is the head of Scahill & Co whose Paramatta offices were raided by Australian Federal Police last year as part of an investigation into the Plutus Payroll scam, allegedly Australia’s largest corporate tax fraud.
The scheme, involving the son of the Australian Tax Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, allegedly used Plutus Payroll and a web of second-tier companies to skim more than $130 million in pay-as-you-go tax.
Mr Scahill’s offices sat in the same building as Rush Recruitment, a national labour hire company that was allegedly taken over by key players in the Plutus fraud and whose founder Greg Mitchell used Mr Scahill as his accountant and adviser.
The money laundering charges against Mr Scahill are unrelated to the Plutus tax fraud. However, Mr Scahill met Mr Parker through an employee of Rush Recruitment, Siobhan Oliver, who was Mr Parker’s girlfriend.
Mr Parker is now serving a 22-year non-parole sentence while Ms Oliver was sentenced to three years non-parole this month after pleading guilty to laundering more than $1 million of his money.
According to the court, Mr Scahill set up a trust account for Mr Parker under the fake name “Jeremy Smith” and advised Mr Parker to arrange multiple deposits under $10,000 into the account to avoid detection, eventually totalling $473,359.
Police also found $226,000 in a backpack in Mr Scahill’s car, $53,850 at his home and $24,520 in his office desk.
Judge King said Mr Scahill had been “living a double life” and had “abused his position in the community of a qualified, legitimate, law-abiding accountant”.
He found Mr Scahill, who signed off on Mr Parker’s and Ms Oliver’s tax returns, was an intelligent man and “capable of drawing the obvious imputation that Mr Parker was involved in drug importation”.
He cited wire taps of Mr Scahill’s phone where the accountant responded to Mr Parker’s failure to show up to a meeting by saying “I hope he hasn’t been arrested”.
The colleague he was speaking to replied, “that’s the first thing that came into my mind”.
Mr Scahill’s sentencing comes as the Plutus accused return to court next week, with some of the more minor players expected to plead guilty.
Former ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston will also face trial in January for allegedly obtaining information and exercising influence to obtain a benefit for his son in relation to the scheme.