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Dunedin fraudster arrested and $6m assets restrained

A 43-year-old New Zealand businessman has appeared in the Dunedin District Court today, following his arrest for using altered invoices to undervalue imported heavy machinery and evading at least $1.4 million in GST payments at the border.

The man currently faces three charges, including defrauding Customs revenue, offences in relation to declarations and documents that are known to be faulty, and obtaining by deception.

Customs began investigating the man’s business earlier this year after discovering that he had used an altered invoice to significantly undervalue an imported consignment of heavy machinery. An initial audit of 25 imported consignments by the businessman’s company showed that most of the consignments had been undervalued.

Customs records show the business has imported over 200 consignments since 2013, and the undervaluations are believed to have spanned the six-year period. An initial analysis of the imported consignment documents show that at least 90 of them had been undervalued, by a total of $9.6 million, resulting in $1.4 million in GST payments being evaded.

Customs investigators, with the assistance of Dunedin Police, carried out search warrants in Dunedin and Cromwell today leading to the man’s arrest.

Southern Police Asset Recovery Unit also restrained property to the value of approximately $6 million.

Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says Customs actively targets revenue evasion, and this businessman has deliberately tried to circumvent the border systems in place to collect Government revenue.

“Defrauding Customs of revenue is fraud and a serious crime, with a penalty of up to five years in jail. Heavy machinery doesn’t attract additional tariff duties, but GST must still be paid. All businesses should be aware of this, and fraudsters will be prosecuted,” Mr Berry says.

Detective Senior Sergeant Brent Murray, Manager: Asset Recovery, says the police asset recovery units will work closely with all law enforcement agencies to ensure that persons do not financially benefit from their criminal activity and the purpose of the criminal proceeds recovery act is to hold people to account for any unlawfully earned income.

“Working closely with NZ Customs ensures that whatever the crime the criminal proceeds recovery act is about ensuring that crime does not pay.”

If you have suspicions about someone involved in border-related fraud, such as undervaluations or misdeclarations, call either 0800 4 CUSTOMS (0800 428 786) in confidence, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously.

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