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DPP v Zhang [2022] VCC 527

The offender was sentences following pleas of guilty to 1 count of providing a false foreign travel document contrary to s 22(2) of the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005 (Cth) and 1 count of importing goods, those goods being tobacco products, with the intention of defrauding the revenue contrary to s 233BABAD of the Customs Act 1901 (Cth).

Nature and Circumstances: The travel document offence arises from offender providing a false Chinese passport as an identity document when they applied to lease a mailbox ‘suite’. Offence was not connected to any further criminal offending. In relation to the importation offence, offender was involved in an ongoing business of importing tobacco products into Australia and performed conduct directly related to the importation of 50 parcels containing illicit tobacco. The total revenue defrauded was $437,465. Offending occurred over a 7-month period. Offender was involved in a number of different consignments and undertook a number of acts, including procuring private mail box addresses, using false identity documents and then providing the addresses to associated to enable illicit tobacco products to be imported to those addresses. Offender appeared to hold a position of influence and authority over the business operation. There was a degree of sophistication and planning involved in the offending. While the amount defrauded is substantial, when looked at in comparison to other cases, it does fall at the lower end. It can be inferred that offender was involved in this offending for financial gain.

Guilty Plea: Plea was entered at the earliest opportunity. There is additional utilitarian value to offender’s plea of guilty due to the delays and interruptions of jury trials in the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there was no specific evidence of remorse, offender’s plea of guilty does represent an acknowledgement and acceptance of wrongdoing.

Deportation: After completion of sentence, offender expects to return home to China. Offender was in Australia on bridging visa. Defence counsel did not rely on prospect of deportation as causing additional hardship. These matters invite speculation and given this prospect of deportation not taken into account as mitigating factor.

Offender was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment to be released after 13 months upon entering a recognizance release order with a good behaviour bond of $1,000.
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