‘You can’t hide from the ATO’: Sydney councillor sentenced to seven months

‘You can’t hide from the ATO’: Sydney councillor sentenced to seven months

Ryde Liberal councillor Artin Etmekdjian has been handed a seven-month sentence for dishonestly attempting to influence a Commonwealth official, following an investigation by the n Taxation Office.
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Mr Etmekdjian, 55, who served as mayor of Ryde council between 2010 and 2012, was sentenced in the Sydney Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday in connection with his job as a tax agent.

He plead guilty to the offence in January, but is now appealing against the sentence.

The ATO said, via a statement, that Mr Etmekdjian’s conviction was the result of a successful investigation that “proved the tax agent and former mayor had backdated documents linked to the tax returns of a senior banker”.

The documents were provided to the ATO during an audit of the banker’s tax affairs, the statement said.

Mr Etmekdjian will serve the seven-month sentence by way of an intensive correction order, which allows offenders to serve their sentence through alternatives to jail such as community service work or monitoring by a corrections officer.

The conviction may mean Mr Etmekdjian will lose his position on the council. Under the Local Government Act, people serving sentences, including those involving intensive correction orders, are disqualified from holding civic office.

According to Ryde Council’s website, Mr Etmekdjian is a chartered accountant who is “passionate about accountability and transparency and is committed to helping the community achieve financial sustainability”.

He is managing director of Summit Business Consultants, which is described on the council’s website as “a multi-disciplinary business consultancy practice”.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston said Mr Etmekdjian, as a tax agent, “clearly understood” he was breaking the law and “should have known better”.

“You can’t hide from the ATO. We have sophisticated systems in place to detect this kind of activity and work closely with law enforcement partners to share data and investigate tax fraud and crime,” Mr Cranston said.

Mr Etmekdjian may face further professional consequence, with the ATO confirming the matter had been referred to the Tax Practitioners Board, which ensures that registered tax practitioners meet appropriate standards of professional and ethical conduct.

Mr Etmekdjian’s appeal will be heard in June.

A spokeswoman for Ryde Council confirmed it was only made aware of Mr Etmekdjian’s sentence on Wednesday afternoon.

“The Acting General Manager Roy Newsome is seeking confirmation of this matter and obtaining any necessary legal advice. Council will make no further comments until these details are confirmed,” the spokeswoman said.