No lucky day for tax evader

CONVICTION REMAINS: Ashoka Pandey was unsuccessful in seeking to have his tax evasion conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal.
CONVICTION REMAINS: Ashoka Pandey was unsuccessful in seeking to have his tax evasion conviction overturned by the Court of Appeal.

He was dishonest and there was no miscarriage of justice - the former secretary and treasurer of the Manawatu Greyhound Racing Club has had his appeal against conviction on a tax charge tossed out.

Ashoka Kant Pandey, 57, had a win in the courts last month when he was found not guilty of stealing money from club grants, but the Court of Appeal has dismissed his claim that he should not have been convicted for wrongly filing a GST refund.

Pandey was found guilty in late 2012 of the charge, after he included GST payments made to two greyhound trainers on March 3, 2010, in the Manawatu Greyhound Racing Club's return for the period ending January 2010.

He was sentenced to 120 hours' community work. The jury took 35 minutes to find him guilty.

He appealed against both the conviction and the sentence.

In his judgment released this month, Justice Ronald Young said both the conviction and sentence were correct.

Pandey had submitted that a miscarriage of justice had taken place for three reasons: it was not proven he had been dishonest, lawyer Fergus Steedman - acting as counsel assisting the court - had not made a proper closing address, and that Judge Les Atkins had not explained Pandey's claim of right defence to the jury. But Justice Young said all three grounds for appeal should be dismissed.

Steedman's closing accurately put across Pandey's case.

"We are satisfied that if Mr Steedman's final address is read as a whole and together with the judge's summing-up, it is unobjectionable and no miscarriage has arisen," Justice Young said.

"We are satisfied the jury would clearly have understood Mr Pandey's defence."

Pandey submitted that it had to be proven that he had a dishonest purpose when filling out the GST return, but Justice Young said the charge stemmed from dishonesty.

"Knowingly providing a false GST return... is a form of dishonest conduct.

"Doing so when you know another person is not entitled to the refund emphasises the original dishonesty."

The panel of judges dismissed Pandey's final submission, and Justice Young said the guilty verdict showed there was no room for claim of right argument.

Pandey originally appealed on eight other grounds, but changed them before the Court of Appeal hearing. The panel considered those grounds anyway, and dismissed all of them.

Pandey also tried to have his sentenced reduced, but the judges found the punishment fitted the crime.

The appeal dismissal comes on the back of Pandey being found not guilty of two charges of theft by a person in a special relationship.

That verdict, released in November, came about after Pandey was accused of stealing money from grants given to the greyhound racing club by the Department of Internal Affairs to build a fence.

Pandey has a history of tax evasion.

He has been convicted of 16 tax offences committed in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Justice Young said the criminal history and more current offending "showed [Pandey] was prepared to ignore tax laws when it suited him".

Manawatu Standard