Louis Andrews August 29, 2012
A former public servant and Indian national accused of embezzling more than $1 million from the taxman can now leave the bounds of the territory.
But his lawyers have failed in a bid to have proceedings against their client permanently stayed.
Rishi Khandelwal is on trial in the ACT Magistrates Court, fighting 304 fraud charges.
The former Food Standards Australia and New Zealand employee allegedly submitted hundreds of fake income tax returns using the identities of international university students.
The Commonwealth prosecution alleges the 29-year-old reaped more than $1 million after the tax office paid the returns into bank accounts controlled or accessed by him.
When police searched his house, car and office they allegedly found bags filled with thousands of dollars in cash, a pink diamond ring and a collection of bank cards.
His barrister, Jack Pappas, unsuccessfully pushed for a permanent stay, arguing the prosecution kept changing the particulars of the case against Khandelwal.
Mr Pappas said the prosecution were treating the case as a “moving feast” and his client was being denied a fair go.
But the Commonwealth said the particulars had not changed and there was no prejudice to Khandelwal in the way the case had been conducted.
At an earlier hearing prosecutor Wendy Abraham, QC, said the defence arguments were ''replete with false statements'' and unsubstantiated allegations.
Magistrate Peter Dingwall this morning said the parties had arrived at this point in proceedings because of an apparent miscommunication between the parties.
“Ultimately it seems to me the question is: is, by reason of what’s occurred, the court unable to ensure the defendant has a fair hearing,” he said.
The magistrate said he was not satisfied there was enough prejudice to justify granting a stay.
“In the circumstances, whilst I say I don’t accept entirely the prosecution’s [argument]…that the case was clearly particularised I’m satisfied that any prejudice that might be biased to the defendant in this case can be ameliorated by further particulars being provided and if necessary by witnesses being recalled,” he said.
The rest of the trial was adjourned until next year.
But in the meantime Khandelwal’s lawyers applied for his bail conditions to be varied so his wife could have her passport back and he could leave the territory.
For two years the accused fraudster has been on strict conditions requiring him to report regularly to police, banning him from leaving the territory and forbidding him from approaching within 100 metres of any point of international departure.
He and his wife, Indian nationals, also surrendered their passports.
Mr Pappas said his client had been confined to the ACT for two years and had never breached bail.
He argued Khandelwal had reason to travel to Sydney from time to time, and should be allowed to do leave the territory.
Commonwealth prosecutor Sara Cronan warned Khandelwal would pose a greater flight risk if his wife could leave the country, and noted police alleged found him in possession of three fake drivers licences.
Mr Pappas interjected from the bar table, saying, “you can’t drive to India”.
Magistrate Peter Dingwall agreed to give his wife her passport back and varied her husband’s conditions so he could leave the ACT.
But he restricted him to travelling within NSW, and only after giving notice to police.
Khandelwal must still report to police three times each week.