Five members of family behind 21 Thai restaurants in NZ sentenced for $2.3m tax evasion

Five members of one family who operated 21 restaurants across New Zealand have been sentenced to prison and home detention after a $2.3 million tax evasion case brought by Inland Revenue.

The family operated 21 restaurants across New Zealand, most trading as Thai House Express. Source: Inland Revenue

They’ve also been ordered to pay more than $2.2 million in reparations by the High Court in Wellington.

The five – Boonrouen Thongskul, Sirirat Kampeng, Anchalee Minwong, Chanaratt Thongskul and Anuchit Tongskul – pleaded guilty five weeks into a trial expected to last 10 weeks.  

They were part of a family group of 11 who initially faced charges they had been part of co-ordinated tax evasion effort over a seven-year period.

Inland Revenue spokesperson Richard Philp says the trial ended early when the five siblings entered guilty pleas.

He says once they’d heard much of the Crown evidence against them, the five entered guilty pleas in relation to the GST and income tax returns of the businesses for which they were responsible, and their own income tax return.

“By their guilty pleas the brothers and sisters acknowledged they knew their returns were false and were a deliberate ploy to evade tax. Cash sales were deliberately suppressed to pay less tax," Mr Philp said.

An aggravating feature of the offending for Chanaratt Thongskul and Anuchit Tongskul was that their declared income was low enough to qualify for Working for Families Tax Credits in some of the years charged, he said.

The family operated 21 restaurants in a number of cities and towns across New Zealand, most trading as Thai House Express. 

During the trial, Inland Revenue maintained the family operated the businesses in the same format and style akin to a franchise operation.

The case followed an extensive investigation into the family group with searches of private properties disclosing business records, luxury goods and cash in some instances.

“The general allegation was that the family distributed the cash amongst themselves, as part of a deliberate practice of not reporting or recording cash sales and diverting the cash to private use," Mr Philp said.

“This is not trivial tax evasion. At one point in the trial the cash deposited in personal bank accounts was said to be more than $9 million. For these five defendants the sum is more than $5.2 million," he said.

The five defendants entered guilty pleas to charges of filing 366 false income tax, GST and personal tax returns evasion relating to their own tax affairs and those of their 11 companies.

At the High Court in Wellington today Chanaratt Thongskul was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison and ordered to pay $900,000 in reparation.

Sirirat Kampeng will serve 12 months home detention and pay $600,000 in reparation.

Anchalee Minwong was sentenced to 10 months home detention with $400,000 in reparations.

And Anuchit Tongskul got nine months home detention and must pay $300,000 in reparations.

Boonruen Thongskul was convicted and discharged with $5000 in reparation to pay.