‘Bowler Hat Englishman’: hunt for alleged mastermind of Australia’s largest tax evasion scheme
28 Sep 2020

According to an Interpol Red Notice, Philip Egglishaw is 67 years old, 1.75m tall, with a moustache and receding hairline. The “international fraudster”, as he was once dubbed, is wanted by Australian authorities for his role as the alleged mastermind of one of the country’s largest tax evasion and money-laundering schemes, known as Project Wickenby.

Mr Egglishaw, whose arrest for tax evasion and money laundering has been sought by Australia since 2008, has repeatedly slipped through the net.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald can reveal that despite pleading guilty to tax evasion offences in a Californian court last month, the man known as the “Bowler Hat Englishman” negotiated a fine and once again is free to split his time between his Swiss home and his estate on the French Riviera.

Meanwhile, 46 of his Australian clients were convicted, and many of them, including music promoter Glenn Wheatley, ended up behind bars. Others, such as entertainer Paul Hogan and his business partner John “Strop” Cornell, were pursued by tax authorities for years.

Things began to go wrong for Mr Egglishaw in 2004 when police raided his Melbourne hotel room and seized his computer, which contained details of numerous illegal tax schemes he operated for many of Australia’s wealthiest individuals.

His company Strachans SA, which he moved from Jersey, in the Channel Islands, to Switzerland, helped clients in Australia, the United States and elsewhere to evade billions of dollars in tax using complex offshore arrangements in various tax havens.

Over ensuing years, Mr Egglishaw has thwarted all attempts to bring him to Australia to face justice.

Not so fortunate was business partner Philip De Figueiredo. He had never set foot in Australia when he was extradited from Jersey and jailed in Queensland. His sentence was reduced after promising to give evidence against others, including Mr Egglishaw. In January 2015, after less than two years in jail, De Figueiredo was on a first-class flight back to Europe.

In 2017, Australian authorities thought they had Mr Egglishaw when a Red Notice was triggered after he left Switzerland to holiday in a $2500-a-night hotel at Lake Como. But once again they were left empty-handed. After two months in an Italian jail, he was released when the judge ruled prosecutors had run out of time to charge him.

Last month, in a Californian court, Mr Egglishaw entered into a plea deal on behalf of his now defunct company Strachans SA. Mr Egglishaw was named as a “co-conspirator”.

The guilty plea, which attracted a $US500,000 fine, related to “wilfully” conspiring with US taxpayers to evade their tax obligations.

The plea deal, which Mr Egglishaw signed on August 14, revealed the lenient penalty was due in part to the “extensive co-operation” he has been providing to the US Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service since 2014.

Information he provided indicated one unnamed client had avoided paying tax on the $US25 million sale of an entertainment business. Strachans hid the money in offshore structures that purchased real estate, provided credit cards, chartered private jets and even bought a collection of musical instruments for the client.

By Kate McClymont, The Age, 28 September 2020

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