Jennifer Nairne, 62, is facing 27 charges of tax evasion and fraud-related offences, with the Australian Federal Police alleging that she promoted and facilitated an illegal family trust arrangement for her client for the purposes of minimising tax liability.
The AFP, leading the investigations as part of the joint-agency Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), alleges that Ms Nairne knowingly lodged nine false income tax returns on behalf of the family trust, resulting in the trust beneficiaries avoiding more than $8 million in income tax.
Ms Nairne has also been accused of concealing, destroying and fabricating evidence in response to an ATO audit in an effort to make the false income tax returns appear legitimate.
This includes allegedly making false representations about the family trust and company records to the Commissioner of Taxation as well as submitting 37 false or misleading documents.
Ms Nairne, a current partner at accounting and financial services firm Fordham Group, allegedly committed the crimes while working at the east-coast practice of PKF between 2007 and 2010.
This PKF practice was bought by BDO in 2012, with BDO confirming that Ms Nairne was employed as a partner in its Sydney office until May 2016.
The AFP is not alleging that the client or the accused’s firm at the time had any knowledge of the alleged offending.
“BDO has cooperated fully with the AFP’s investigation. As this matter is ongoing, BDO is unable to make any further comment at this time,” a BDO spokesperson told Accountants Daily.
A Fordham Group spokesperson said the firm was “working with the partner during this time”.
“Fordham confirms the alleged charges do not involve any existing or past Fordham clients, relate only to one individual partner and are in relation to services provided more than a decade ago prior to joining Fordham,” a spokesperson told Accountants Daily.
Ms Nairne’s profile on Fordham Group’s website states that she “loves helping her clients to realise their ideal futures, at home and at work, through properly managing and structuring their complex affairs”.
“A priority for Jennifer is helping her clients use their wealth to create an enduring legacy for the benefit of their children, grandchildren, the community and beyond. After all, what is the point of accumulating wealth if a business owner has no time to enjoy the benefits of their hard work?” the profile said.
AFP Commander Kirsty Schofield, Investigations Eastern Command, said these charges send a strong message that serious criminal activity and fraud will not be tolerated.
“This operation shows how SFCT investigators are working — tirelessly and meticulously — to ensure the integrity of our taxation system,” Ms Schofield said.
Jotham Lian is the news editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.