False dealing with accounting documents

In 2012, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development working group on bribery recommended that Australia increase the maximum sanctions against legal persons for false accounting under Commonwealth legislation.

In response, the Commonwealth Criminal Code now codifies conduct as criminal where:

A person:

  1. Makes, alters, destroys or conceals an accounting document;
  2. Fails to make an accounting document that the person is under a duty to make; and
  3. Either intends or is reckless to the fact that this conduct would facilitate, conceal or disguise:
    1. The offender or another person receiving or giving a benefit, or
    2. Another person incurring a loss;

where that benefit or loss is not legitimately due.

Severe penalties have been imposed in respect of this conduct. 

An individual is punishable on conviction by imprisonment for not more than 10 years and a fine of not more than 10,000 penalty units when found to have acted with intent, and 5 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than 5,000 penalty units when found to have acted recklessly.

A corporation on conviction may be fined not more than the greatest of:

  1. 100,000 penalty units;
  2. A sum three (3) times the benefit directly or indirectly obtained;
  3. 10% of the annual turnover of the body corporate during the relevant period;

The offences will apply both within Australia and overseas, in prescribed circumstances where constitutional power permits.

These sanctions commenced on 1 March 2016.