May 212015

Slap with feather … (updated 4 December 2015)

Case 3

Australian Financial Security Authority – Media release: (NSW) Hull – Bankrupt pleads guilty to three offences under the Bankruptcy Act

Wed 02 December 2015

A man was sentenced for disposing of property within 12 months prior to becoming a bankrupt with intent to defraud his creditors and having made a false declaration on his Statement of Affairs. Mr Denis John Hull was sentenced in the Downing Centre Local Court on 24 November 2015 following a guilty plea being entered to having disposed of property within 12 months prior to becoming a bankrupt with intent to defraud his creditors and to having made a false declaration on his Statement of Affairs.

On 31 March 2012 Mr Hull received a total of $21,175.44 from the sale of two parcels of shares authorised for sale on 26 March 2012. On 10 April 2012 he became bankrupt via Debtor’s Petition, by which time he had disposed of monies totalling $16,000 received from the sale of shares. In his Statement of Affairs completed on 5 April 2014, Mr Hull failed to disclose the sale of the two parcels of shares, and failed to disclose the existence of the bank account into which the share proceeds were subsequently deposited.

During the proceedings Magistrate Milledge remarked that the offending was “quite deceitful and very worrying”. She later stated that the offending was “despicable, mean and criminal”, but acknowledged that it was clear that Mr Hull accepted that as demonstrated in his letter to the court. In passing sentence, Magistrate Milledge gave consideration to Mr Hull’s age at the date of the offending; the fact that he had previously managed to lead a trouble free life; and that his recent efforts to repay the monies showed remorse; and remarked that it was her view that whilst there was serious criminality she saw it as something that was done at a critical place in life and understood that this was why Mr Hull had done what he had done, noting that this did not excuse the offending.

Mr Hull was sentenced and was ordered to enter into a 2 year good behaviour bond in the amount of $200 with nil conviction to be recorded pursuant to Section 19B(1)(d) Crimes Act 1914. Magistrate Milledge noted that no restitution order would be made as this was being taken care of.

The matter was prosecuted by the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.;

Amazing … (updated 11 August 2015)

Case 2

Australian Financial Security Authority – Media release: (TAS) Smith – Discharged bankrupt faces court and imprisonment for failing to disclose financial details and withdrawing cash of $72,600

Thu 06 August 2015

A dairy farmer formerly of King Island, Dominic Luke Smith was prosecuted in the Launceston Court of Petty Sessions on 24 July 2015 for removing $72,600 from his bank accounts in 2012, prior to and just after the date of bankruptcy.
Mr Smith also failed to keep appropriate books and records relating to his business transactions for five years prior to his bankruptcy and failed to disclose information as required by the trustee. Mr Smith was not able to account for how he spent a $100,000 loan and failed to produce bank account statements and cheque butts when requested by his bankruptcy trustee. Mr Smith pleaded guilty to 15 offences under the Bankruptcy Act and was sentenced to a total effective sentence of 4 months’ imprisonment, released on a $1,000 two-year good behaviour bond. The matter was prosecuted by the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Case 1

Australian Financial Security Authority – Media release NSW (McElwaine) – Nine-month bond for offence against the Bankruptcy Act

Thu 14 May 2015

A NSW woman has pleaded guilty to gambling away more than $137,000 from the sale of her property rather than paying creditors before declaring bankruptcy with debts of $438,000. Dee Why resident Bridgett McElwaine was sentenced in the Downing Centre Local Court on 12 May 2015 after pleading guilty to an offence against the Bankruptcy Act. Ms McElwaine filed for voluntary bankruptcy in October 2012 with debts of $438,000 mostly from the use of 22 credit cards. Before her bankruptcy, Ms McElwaine had received proceeds of more than $137,000 after selling her property in Frenchs Forest, NSW. She withdrew more than $96,000 in the 12 months before her bankruptcy and told the court she ‘blew the lot’ on gambling instead of making the money available to her creditors. In sentencing Magistrate Goodwin noted a jail term was available for Ms McElwaine’s serious offence and that a clear message needed to be sent to the community about the unacceptable nature of that behaviour. Ms McElwaine was convicted and placed on a nine-month good behaviour bond, recognisance of $500 and to accept Community Corrections Service supervision. The case was prosecuted by the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.Media release NSW (McElwaine) – Nine-month bond for offence against the Bankruptcy Act


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Apr 122011

“When ITSA (the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia)  identifies criminal behaviour such as this, it will investigate the matter and pursue the offender to the full extent of the law”.   So said Mr Jeff Hanley, Assistant National Manager of ITSA’s Enforcement unit in a media release commenting on the case of Mr Peter David Wilson of Sea Lake, Victoria.

While ITSA may well pursue offenders to the full extent of the law, the sentence in the Wilson case again raises the question of whether, generally speaking, the judiciary in Australia  regards bankruptcy offences as relatively trivial.

Mr Wilson’s crime was that he signed a Statement of Income declaring his annual income to be significantly less than he earned. In support of this false Statement of Income he provided an Australian Taxation Office Notice of Assessment which, enquiries revealed, he had altered to show a taxable income that was less than it actually was.

As required by the Bankruptcy Act, Mr Wilson had been making fortnightly income contributions.  But he fell behind in the payments. When requested by his Trustee to complete an Annual Statement of Income Mr Wilson “saw a way of not having to make the contributions by falsely lowering his annual income to his Trustee”.

“This offender deliberately fabricated documents to avoid disclosing his true income and therefore pay less by way of a return to his creditors” said Mr Hanley.

“In a Record of Interview with ITSA Investigators, Wilson made full and frank admissions about his offending – stating he intentionally altered the document so as to reduce his income for the purposes of not having to pay compulsory income contributions.”

The penalty? Mr Wilson pleaded guilty and was released on a $1000 recognisance to be of good behaviour for 12 months. A further condition imposed was that Wilson continue to make fortnightly payments in reduction of his debt to ITSA.

Of course, we do not know all the facts nor the character and circumstances of Mr Wilson at the time he appeared before the court.

But one wonders whether light sentences such as this would have any detterent effect at all on other would-be offenders with  fraudulent intent.


Author: P Keenan 12/4/2011.   Disclaimer: The material published on this blog is general in nature. It is made available on the understanding that the Author is not thereby engaged in rendering professional advice.  Before relying on the material in any important matter, users should carefully evaluate its accuracy, currency, completeness and relevance for their purposes, and should obtain any appropriate professional advice relevant to their particular circumstances.
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