By Mike Puia
AN Australian, who was sentenced by the Australian court in 2013 for promoting schemes to avoid tax, is in the country on nickel mining business.
Mr Ewan Stoddart, an accountant from Queensland, is the shareholder and director of Arc Nickel Solomon Islands Limited.
The government, through the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification (MMERE), has issued Arc Nickel Solomon Islands Limited a Letter of Intent for a Prospecting Licence (PL) to harvest nickel on San Jorge Island in Isabel province.
The Letter of Intent was issued by the MMERE’s Minister, Mr Bradley Tovosia, based on recommendations from the Ministry’s Mines and Minerals Board.
The Board met on May 9 and recommended to Minister Tovosia to issue a Letter of Intent to Arc Nickel Solomon Islands Limited. Tovosia issued the Letter of Intent on May 23, 15 days after the Board’s meeting.
The Letter of Intent allowed Arc Nickel Solomon Islands Limited to collect signatures from landowners for a Surface Access Agreement over a period of six month.
Once Arc Nickel Solomon Islands Limited collected the needed signatures from landowners, it can ask for a nickel prospecting licence.
Mr Stoddart has travelled to San Jorge Island and held meetings there. Landowners who were aware of Mr Stoddart’s background refused to attend these meetings.
Some landowners vented their dismay on the government for giving the individual a Letter of Intent for a PL.
Stoddart, 51, made it to the news headlines in Australia in 2013 when he was sentenced for promoting tax avoidance schemes to several clients while consulting in Gold Coast.
He helped his clients avoided up to AUD$1.4 million tax due to the Australian government.
Stoddart was sentenced to six years in jail for defrauding the Australian Government 13 times. He only served four years imprisonment and was released after entering into a recognizance with security of AUD$2000.
In sentencing Stoddart, Judge Long, said the offences Mr Stoddart committed are serious in nature, as they affect the integrity of Australian taxation system.
The Australian court warned that Stoddart’s case must be a clear warning to those who market tax exploitation schemes.
The Australian Taxation Office also warned other professionals about the risks of advising tax evasion.
Stoddart’s clients were also convicted of obtaining financial advantages by deception in connection with the tax schemes.
According to the Company Haus, Arc Nickel Solomon Islands Limited is registered as a local private mining company incorporated in July 2007 and re-registered July 2010.
Stoddart holds 850 shares in the company while one-time MMERE’s Minister, Mr Basil Manelegua holds 150 shares in trust for landowners and the government.