Hoges, Strop back in court

THE former financial adviser for celebrated Northern Rivers local John ‘Strop’ Cornell and former local Paul Hogan is wrongly claiming professional privilege as a reason for not answering questions in relation to the $300 million Wickenby tax probe, a court has been told.

Tony Stewart is being prosecuted for refusing to disclose information about the Crocodile Dundee star and Mr Cornell, the former Beach Hotel owner, during an interview with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

It has been alleged the trio hid tens of millions of dollars from the tax office in offshore companies.

Mr Hogan and Mr Cornell have denied the accusation, with Mr Hogan previously having said he had paid tax more than he owed and ‘they should have a statue of me in the Tax Office’.

Mr Stewart has argued that forcing him to answer questions about the matter is an unlawful breach of his professional privilege and private accounting files seized by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) were protected.

In the Federal Court yesterday, barrister Michael Abbott QC asked for the ATO to be prevented from using confidential accounting advice from Mr Stewart in its case against all three men.

He asked for any documents held by the ATO to be destroyed and for any staff who have seen them to be taken off the case.

But the ATO’s barrister, Jeffrey Hilton SC, said the application was ‘embarrassing’, made no submission in ‘intelligent form’ and ‘leapt to conclusions unknown to the law’.

Mr Stewart was likening his position to that of a lawyer and his client, whereas the disclosure of the documents was only ‘a breach of the accounting guidelines’, he said.

“We say that under current Australian law, as we understand it, the court would not grant permanent relief constraining the (tax) commissioner from doing his job,” Mr Hilton said. “We would submit on the authorities that this court would never grant such relief, even if there was a breach of guidelines.”

The hearing before Justice Nye Perram is continuing.

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