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JEFF CONKLIN--passport

Tax swoop on whisky scheme

 

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/tax-swoop-on-whisky-scheme/story-e6frg6nf-1111112226970

 

AN American accountant who tipped investors into a whisky tax minimisation scheme has been caught up in the Operation Wickenby tax fraud and money laundering investigation.

New York-born Jeffrey Leigh Conklin, who lives on the NSW north coast, was allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was sent to overseas trusts and bank accounts, without declaring it as income to the Australian Taxation Office.

The money was allegedly paid as commission for introducing investors into a whisky distillery scheme organised in Australia and operated in Scotland.

Mr Conklin was allegedly paid in 2001 by the company called Grant McKenzie, set up by Sydney tax lawyer Ross Seller and accountant Patrick McCarthy.

Mr Seller and Mr McCarthy were also caught up in the Australian Crime Commission and ATO Wickenby investigation and have been queried over whether they allegedly fabricated loan documents to hide from the ATO taxable income. The pair is fighting the ATO in the Federal Court over whether the scheme involved any wrongdoing.

On behalf of Mr Conklin, Strachans, the Swiss-based accounting firm at the centre of Wickenby, allegedly set up an offshore company called Sheldrake Overseas and two trusts – Winslow and Vela.

Crime-fighting authorities are investigating allegations that the principal of Strachans, Philip Egglishaw, had met with Mr Conklin and his son in Sydney in April 2003 and arranged for $530,000 to be held in Jersey in the name of the Winslow Trust.

It is further alleged that at the meeting Mr Egglishaw arranged for $190,000 to be transferred from the Strachans in-house company Overseas Trading and Promotions to a National Australia Bank account in the name of Beverly Joanne Russ, understood to be Mr Conklin’s mother.

The ACC suspects that these amounts were not money OTP owed to Ms Russ but were really payments from the whisky scheme for Mr Conklin’s work introducing investors. Investigators believe Ms Russ’s accounts were used to repatriate the funds back to Australia without attracting the attention of the ATO.

Mr Conklin vehemently denied the claims, telling The Australian yesterday he knew Mr Egglishaw but had not been contacted by investigators and had no memory of the meeting or transfers. He said he had always declared his income to the ATO.

Mr Seller told The Australian that while Wickenby investigators had seized documents from him and Mr McCarthy, he had not been interviewed over the connections to Strachans.

It is understood the whisky scheme ran for three years. In 1999, it involved 20 investors who claimed $18 million in tax deductions. The following year 48 investors had claimed tax deductions worth $38.2 million and, in 2001, 35 investors claimed $30.7million.

Mr Seller, a lawyer with Abbott Tout in Sydney, said the cash invested was spent on distilling whisky in Scotland and that in time the product would have matured and would be ready to be sold on the retail market.