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R v Zoghbi [2022] NSWDC 219

The offender was sentenced following a conviction of 1 count of conspiring with the intention of dishonestly obtaining a gain from a Commonwealth entity contrary to s 135.4(1) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

Nature and Circumstances: Offending is properly to be described as a ‘grave instance’ of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth. The actual loss in terms of monies paid by the Commonwealth was $19.25 million. The conspiracy itself, defrauding the Commonwealth under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, was ongoing for more than 12 months. An additional number of claims had already been prepared and were intended to be submitted and the criminal scheme was likely to have continued but for unanticipated intervention. Offender used their position of trust and knowledge of the operational procedures and systems of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to give effect to the conspiracy.  Offending falls well above a mid-range of objective seriousness and approaches the most grave instances of such offending.

Contrition: Offender is remorseful for the position in which they have placed their family and themself by their actions. However, they continue to deny any complicity in the conspiracy. It has been advanced on behalf of the offender that they intentionally retained funds within the bank accounts of either the pharmaceutical practice or their own with the intention that they were preserving such funds to the advantage of the Commonwealth. Any such motive is not accepted. Offender was at that time motivated by self-preservation.

Extra-Curial Punishment: Loss of career and professional reputation is capable of amounting to a form of extra-curial punishment. However, offender’s professional position as a pharmacist provided the opportunity and facilitated their ability to commit the offence. The loss of their professional career is the inevitable result of their breaches of trust as a pharmacist. Whilst to be taken into account, it carries little weight in an appropriate determination of a proper sentence.

Offender sentenced to 6 years and 4 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of 4 years.
The CSD acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. We acknowledge that we are on the land of the traditional owners and pay respects to Elders past and present.

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