'Tax cheat' gets home detention

A Wellington "tax cheat" who dodged more than $1.4 million in Inland Revenue payments has been sentenced to home detention.

Lower Hutt's Michael Edwin Kooiman, 48, was convicted on 77 charges of aiding his companies to evade tax, and evading his personal taxes, by Judge Sue Thomas in Wellington District Court yesterday.

Inland Revenue said investigations into Kooiman's businesses - including building, construction, property development, commercial fishing and a wholesale bakery - showed he had avoided paying tax of $1,465,000 over several years.

On some occasions Kooiman had dissolved companies and set up new ones, known as phoenix companies, in an attempt to evade paying tax. Inland Revenue took financial control of one of Kooiman's businesses to collect the money. About $837,000 was still owed.

Kooiman made the news as one of the buyers of troubled Lower Hutt seafood company Seafresh in 2002, before it was put into liquidation later the same year. In 2006, 30 staff lost their jobs when Newland's Wholefoods Bakery, owned by Kooiman, was shut down.

He was declared bankrupt on February 23, 2009. His company, Kooiman Investments Ltd, was wound up by liquidators PricewaterhouseCoopers in July last year.

Inland Revenue Investigations manager Patrick Goggin said Kooiman's sentence sent a clear message.

"We are working hard to deal with tax evaders and make sure there's an even playing field so those who play by the rules aren't disadvantaged. Taxpayers expect their taxes to go to pay for public services, not to tax cheats like Mr Kooiman."

Kooiman was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and 350 hours' community service.

The Dominion Post