Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tax evaders get home detention sentence

The owners of the Hungry Bull Restaurant in Bulls have been sentenced to home detention on tax evasion charges relating to $160,000. Husband and wife Chee, 54, and Lay, 52, Leong will spend the next six months confined to their house after they filed false tax returns between 2003 and 2008. Between them, the pair held on to about $160,000 they were not entitled to through underpaying their GST and income tax, and Lay Leong claiming Working for Families tax credits. In Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Inland Revenue Department prosecutor Kerryn McIntosh-Watt said the Leongs bought the business in 1989 and set it up as a partnership. An investigation into their affairs found their personal accounts had many large cash deposits made into them, as well as into investment accounts. Explanations about these payments proved inconclusive. Sales figures for the Hungry Bull also showed a lower mark-up profit – the difference between profit and the cost of goods – than expected for a takeaway operation, Ms McIntosh-Watt said. "The annual partnership income returned appeared to be low." After a lengthy untangling of the Leongs' monetary affairs, Chee Leong admitted 12 charges and Lay Leong 18. They had since repaid the $160,000. Defence lawyer Tony Thackery asked that the home detention sentence be imposed at different times, so as not to affect their business. "The Leongs present as a couple who seem to live for work." But Judge Gregory Ross was having none of that. Mr Thackery said they would normally operate their restaurant from 10am to 10pm. "The business is adjacent to State Highway 1 and provides a much-needed service, not only to residents of Bulls, but to the travelling public." The judge said tax evasion was a serious matter that robbed the government of money to spend on running the country. He dismissed the idea that the Leongs were merely "innocents abroad". "By their actions they are undermining the very nature of taxation in the country." The Leongs also had to pay $500 legal costs. JIMMY ELLINGHAM Last updated 12:00 03/02/2012

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