Sunshine, 16 July: Wyndham councillor and a prominent Indian community member Intaj Khan was convicted and fined $23,000 by Magistrate Therese McCarthy here today at Sunshine Magistrate Courts for the incomplete and late filing of ordinary returns.
Magistrate McCarthy fined Khan $8000 for two counts of failing to submit ordinary returns between February 2016 and February 2017 on time, and $15,000 total for three counts of failing to disclose companies in which he held office during the return period and three counts of failing to disclose his financial interest in companies.
On June 16 Intaj Khan had pleaded guilty to eight charges relating to the filing of register of interest returns and fronted the Sunshine Magistrates. Khan faced the following charges:
- three counts of failing to disclose companies in which he held office during the return period;
- three counts of failing to disclose companies in which he held a financial interest; and
- two counts of failing to submit ordinary returns between February 2016 and February 2017.
The Local Government Act 1989 requires all Councillors to lodge returns every six months while they are in office – detailing their property holdings, board positions and the like. This ensures that Councillors declare any conflicts of interests regarding council business.
According to Sections 81(5) and 81(7)(a)-(c) of the Local Government Act 1989, Khan faced for these eight charges up to a maximum of $77371.20 in fines.
He has been ordered to pay $23,000 in fines and $15,000 as legal costs.
The good news for the embattled Councillor is that despite his conviction – he is not disqualified and can remain a Councillor.
Giving her reasons for convicting Khan, Magistrate McCarthy noted that the offences occurred shortly after a 2015 investigation by the Local Government Inspectorate which had resulted in Khan receiving a ‘written warning and subsequent training’, which specifically covered Councillors’ obligations regarding ordinary returns.
She said Khan’s non-compliance following this training was an “aggravating factor”.
On January 4, 2016, an email was sent out to Wyndham councillors, which included a copy and guide to filling out ordinary returns
Magistrate McCarthy also cited that email in her reasons, adding that to the importance of correctly filing returns to ensure good governance, for her decision.
“Given the training you undertook – notwithstanding the submission that the training may not have exactly been on point – you are a sophisticated business man and are capable of asking questions as part of that training, and that the purpose of the training was no doubt to focus your mind on the importance of compliance with your reporting obligations,” she said.
“You were on notice at that time about returns, and the public interest in reporting.”
Khan’s conviction is a result of breaches of the Local Government Act 1989.
Relevant legislative provisions of the Local Government Act 1989
Section 81(5) of the Local Government Act 1989 provides:
(5) A Councillor … must submit an ordinary return in the prescribed form to the Chief Executive Officer on — (a) 30 June or within 40 days after 30 June; and (b) 31 December or within 40 days after 31 December.
Sections 81(7)(a)-(c) of the Act provides:
(7) A Councillor … must disclose in an ordinary return the following information in relation to the return period — (a) if he or she has held an office whether as director or otherwise in any company or body, corporate or unincorporate—the name of the company or body;
(b) the name or description of any company or body in which he or she holds or has held a beneficial interest unless the total value of the interest does or did not exceed $10 000 and the total value of issued shares of the company or body exceeds $10 million;
(c) the address or description of any land in the municipal district of the Council or in a municipal district which adjoins that municipal district in which he or she had any beneficial interest other than by way of security for any debt.
Khan, an ambitious Labor politician who had pleaded guilty to these charges and would have preferred no conviction recorded against his name, has lodged an appeal against the decision.
-R. VenuGopal with DM