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False GST and income tax claims lead to home detention

A South Auckland woman was sentenced to 11 months home detention and ordered to repay more than $60,000 to Inland Revenue after falsely claiming GST and income tax refunds.

Lute Tonga Vailolo plead guilty to a representative charge of providing false information which led to the refund claims.  She was sentenced in the Manukau District Court on 22 August. 

Vailolo is the daughter of one of seven brothers who run the Akoteu Nasaleti Trust and the Tongan Community Church of Hephzibah in New Zealand. Some of the offending involved those two organisations.

Between June 2016 and January 2017 Vailolo filed, or assisted others in filing, 19 GST or income tax returns that were false.

“Vailolo was trying to get money she knew she wasn’t entitled to,” Inland Revenue spokesperson Tony Morris says.  “She applied for refunds on behalf of; the Tongan Community Church, the Akoteu Nasaleti Trust, someone who lived with her, various contractors or demolition firms, and other people she knew.

“She advertised her services incorporating companies and GST registration to friends and families and on social media.

“She charged fees for preparing some of the returns and in several cases she changed people’s bank account numbers registered with Inland Revenue to her own account number for claims to be paid in to.

“One claim for $15,641.48 was released by IR into the Tongan Community Church’s bank account.  The account number was then changed to Vailolo’s account number for the second refund to be paid in to, but the second refund claim of $51,498.26 was not released by IR.

“Not all of the refunds she applied for were paid out, - the total of false refund claims amounted to $212,785.87.  It was only due to IR investigation and intervention that the amounts paid out were limited to $66,605.01.  By making these false refund claims Vailolo was ripping off the tax system and taking the money needed for community services and facilities,” Tony Morris says.

Vailolo was ordered to pay reparation of $66,605.01 at $50 per week plus $500 already paid on sentencing day.