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Businessman who ripped off Christchurch rebuild sentenced

Christchurch businessman Richard Lascelles has been sentenced to 12 months' home detention for failing to pay more than $400,000 in PAYE deductions from work mostly during the Canterbury rebuild.

Lascelles, who had operated three scaffolding businesses, was also ordered to repay $180,000 in reparation when sentenced yesterday in Christchurch District Court.  

Inland Revenue Group Manager, Investigations and Advice, Patrick Goggin said Lascelles' offending was particularly disgraceful, given the hardship so many people in the region were experiencing.

"While the vast majority of people in Canterbury have been working hard to get the region back on its feet after the devastating earthquakes, this man has been systematically undermining their efforts," Mr Goggin said.

"But thanks to the diligent work of our investigators, Lascelles' offending was uncovered and he's been brought to justice.

"This is a success for all taxpayers, not just those from Canterbury. The majority of people do the right thing by paying their fair share of tax," said Mr Goggin. "Lascelles chose to cheat the system, rip off honest taxpayers and personally profit from the Christchurch rebuild."

Lascelles pleaded guilty in December last year at Christchurch District Court to 34 charges of aiding and abetting three companies to knowingly apply PAYE deductions other than for payment to Inland Revenue. Approximately $407,000 wasn't paid to IR between February 2009 and July 2012.

He had been prohibited from acting as a director in September 2008 and was adjudged bankrupt in October the same year. 

The companies involved were Independent Scaffolding Supplies Ltd, Graterlea Ltd and Site Staff Ltd.

"We take any criminal activity extremely seriously," said Mr Goggin. "Unfortunately there are a few people who try to defraud Inland Revenue.

"Our systems are designed to pick-up irregularities and we continue to use new tools to help us identify and combat patterns of fraud.

"In this case, Lascelles thought he could get away with back-pocketing the tax deducted from his workers' pay packets. He was very much mistaken," he said.

Inland Revenue is now working to recover the money