An Auckland accountant made 12 fraudulent applications on behalf of several companies in an attempt to defraud the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme of more than $68,000.
Brett William Knock appeared for sentencing in the Auckland District Court on 19 December 2023 having earlier admitted 10 charges of dishonestly taking or using a document.
Judge Simon Lance sentenced him to eight months’ home detention.
According to the court summary of facts, Knock provided accounting services for various companies and individuals, including filing tax and GST returns with Inland Revenue.
Between 28 March and 8 May 2020, he submitted 12 fraudulent wage subsidy applications to MSD. Eight were successful, paying $40,629.60 in total. The four unsuccessful applications were worth a further $28,000.
Nine of the applications were made on behalf of companies in which Knock had, or claimed to have, an interest. The other three were for companies controlled by others.
All 12 applications listed Knock as the contact person and nominated the same bank account. None of the directors and shareholders of these companies ever received any wage subsidy funds from him.
When interviewed by MSD, Knock said he had obtained verbal instructions from his clients to apply for wage subsidies on their behalf, although he admitted he did not check if his clients were eligible before applying.
He eventually repaid $36,429.60 of the $40,629.60 in wage subsidy funds he received from MSD.
At sentencing, Judge Lance gave Knock credit for his guilty plea and repayment, as well as his remorse and efforts at rehabilitation.
The prosecution by MSD is part of a substantial ongoing work programme aimed at making sure those who received wage subsidy payments were entitled to them. This work has seen 39 people brought before the courts to date for wage subsidy misuse.
More wage subsidy cases in the courts can be found here
More information on MSD’s Wage Subsidy Integrity and Fraud Programme can be found here