Lawyer’s “fat finger” added a zero to ATO payment

fat finger
Nelson McKinnon’s
Steve Agosta.
fat finger
Insolvency Option’s Darren Vardy.

Punching the wrong key and submitting an incorrect amount – the dreaded “fat finger” error – rarely attracts attention if the sum is less than intended. When it’s more it’s a different story.

When it’s more iNO for one sits up and takes notice, not that iNO was slouching at the back of Federal Court 19B on Monday when the the issue of a momentary want of dexterity arose during day one of a week of public examinations being run by liquidator Darren Vardy.

The examinations are being run to assist Vardy in his capacity as liquidator of Fourteen Consulting Services Pty Ltd (Fourteen) and Boon Business Consultants Pty Ltd (Boon) in unravelling the Byzantine affairs of myriad entities linked to the late insolvency advisor Sam Henderson.

In his September 1, 2023 report to Boon creditors Vardy explained that he had had himself appointed to a swathe of related entities to enable him to “wind up a complex scheme in which there appears to be the use of labour hire entities and loan accounts to avoid payment of statutory obligations such as PAYG Withholding and Payroll Tax over a number years and for the benefit of a number of parties”.

On Monday Vardy commenced his public examinations, with Sydney accountant Sam Cassaniti first up in the witness box followed by one of Henderson’s long time friends, Chris Traill.

During questioning by University Chambers’ Ralphed Notley Traill, who befriended Henderson when the two attended private boarding school St Josephs, told the court that he had been in financial distress and Henderson had offered him an “out” which involved him taking on the role as a director of Boon.

As director he told the court he didn’t have that much to do with running Boon but he did on occasion sign documents, which prompted Notley to reference a series of Deeds of Acknowledgment of Debt and Deeds of Assignment of Debt between Boon as lender and various borrowers, including Titan Cranes & Rigging Pty Ltd (Titan) and Henpark Holdings Pty Ltd (Henpark).

In the middle of the questioning about the deeds, Traill was asked if he knew Sydney lawyer Steve Agosta of Nelson McKinnon and he confirmed he’d met Agosta socially though Henderson’s social network.

The court heard that the first deed of acknowledgment of debt ascribed to Titan a debt of $7 million owing to Boon but Traill didn’t recall signing it.

He did however explain that the subsequent deeds of assignment – which invariably involved large assignment fees payable to Boon – were Henderson’s way of “sorting out” tax liabilities which followed the issuance to Traill of a director penalty notice.

Notley then asked Traill about payments made to the trust account of Agosta’s firm, which Traill explained were “funds deposited by Sam to deal with the DPN against me”.

Traill was then referred to a series of emails between Henderson and staff member James Byrnes, to which Traill and Agosta were copied in.

In oner of those emails Henderson said: “Sorry mate, Agosta’s accidental overpayment made things difficult.”

Traill explained that Agosta had been asked to transfer $75,000 from the Nelson McKinnon trust account to the ATO in satisfaction of the DPN. But according to Traill Agosta “fat fingered” the transfer, accidentally adding a zero so that tax office received $750,000 instead.

iNO’s told the ATO refunded the $675,000 excess quite quickly and in an email response to our inquiries inquiries, Agosta said the “overpayment was allocated against proprietor funds until such time as it was refunded by the ATO.”

This story is published for the benefit of iNO Priority holders and must not be shared, copied, reproduced or otherwise distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Further reading:

Former Jirsch Sutherland Partner Found Dead

Colourful Creditors Claim Big In Henderson Bankruptcy

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