Accountants Barrie Skinner and David Rowley appeal fraud convictions
Two Wellington accountants who were handed the longest jail terms in a New Zealand tax case have begun their appeal.
In August 2012, Barrie James Skinner and David Ingram Rowley were jailed for 8½ and eight years respectively, after being found guilty of dozens of charges of fraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
They were accused of defrauding the IRD of millions of dollars when they used sham transactions, usually for non-existent "services", to reduce the tax bills of some of their clients.
Skinner and Rowley used fictitious invoices to charge clients for goods and services which did not exist, to create fraudulent GST and income tax deductions, pocketing most of the benefit themselves.
At sentencing, Justice Kos said the pair, former directors of Tax Planning Services (TPS), had also committed perjury during the eight-week trial in the High Court at Wellington.
The pair who are serving sentences in Rimutaka Prison, appeared by video link at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
The hearing was held before Justice Ellen France, president of the court of appeal and Justices Rhys Harrison and Lyn Stevens.
Family members of both men sat in the public gallery during the appeal on Tuesday.
In January 2013 the men gave handwritten notices of appeal claiming evidence against them in the trial was unreliable, and that the sentences were disproportionate.
Skinner, a former IRD investigator who was accused of spending more on international travel and accommodation over six years than his declared income, claimed the sentence he was given was "out of all proportions regarding the charges".
He said the IRD had made money out of the case, with client tax deductions reversed, and income assessed against him and Rowley.
Rowley's notice of appeal said Justice Kos placed great weight on statements given by TPS' clients to the IRD, which he said were made under threat of full audit and penalties.
Coming when the accused had little influence over, or contact with, their clients, the evidence should not have been given the weight it was in the judgment.
Clients involved in the case included lawyers and company directors, many of whom said that they had no idea what the transactions were for, but simply acted on advice from Skinner and Rowley.
The appeal hearing is scheduled to finish on Wednesday.