Anthony Robert Lee was jailed for conning the tax office out of nearly a million dollars.
Anthony Robert Lee was jailed for conning the tax office out of nearly a million dollars. John Weekes

Tax scam loot blown on failing beef business

A WAGYU beef fraudster who conned taxpayers out of more than $800,000 is unlikely to repay his ill-gotten gains.

Anthony Robert Lee was sentenced to five years and ten months in jail for a scam a judge called simple but "staggeringly effective".

The former Evans Head man used dummy invoices a Warwick beef processor gave him to trick the ATO into paying a refund Lee was never entitled to.

New Zealand-born Lee, 65, received $820,241 in undeserved GST refunds, and also pleaded guilty to an attempted $185,000 tax fraud.

On Wednesday, Brisbane District Court heard Lee would probably be deported, eventually.

Judge Anthony Rafter said Lee duped the tax office in five separate monthly business activity statements.

In these statements, Lee overstated capital acquisitions to increase the value of GST refunds.

"We do see more sophisticated cases. This was simple but it was staggeringly effective," Judge Rafter said.

Defence lawyer Frank Dzelalija said Lee was "never going to get away with" the scam.

But Judge Rafter replied: "In a sense he has got away with it" because any reparation order was "pie in the sky".

Prosecutors said Lee spent some of the money travelling to places including Korea, where he claimed to have business interests.

But Mr Dzelalija said Lee never enjoyed a "fantastic lifestyle", and simply used the money to support struggling businesses.

He said Lee had been married for about 44 years and had two children.

Lee's scam was a "very amateurish attempt because he was audited less than five months after the first claim was made", Mr Dzelalija added.

The charges related to HQB Exporters and Agri Beef Cattle Company.

On the Alibaba website, HQB Exporters was described as a distributor of Wagyu, which is a highly marbled and frequently very expensive steak.

At the time of the offences in late 2013 and early 2014, Lee was the only director of those companies.

"The tax system depends on the honesty of taxpayers," Judge Rafter said.

Lee will be eligible for parole after two years and six months.

- NewsRegional