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By Qiuyi Tan of New Zealand Herald
A man created a company for the sole purpose of filing bogus Covid-19 wage subsidies, pocketing more than $120,000 in funds meant to help businesses and workers through the pandemic.
Uatesoni Filimoehala did this while he was bankrupt and banned from managing businesses.
The father of five pleaded guilty and was convicted on four charges of dishonestly taking or using a document when he appeared at the Waitākere District Court before Judge Anna Fitzgibbon on Thursday.
A court summary shows he registered 42 Construction in April 2020, shortly after the wage subsidy scheme opened.
Within hours he made a first application for the subsidy naming himself and his brother as employees.
He used an alias for himself, Watson Filimoehala, to avoid detection as a bankrupt.
Over the next few months, he made five more applications and received a total of $126,532.80.
The applications listed several employees, none of them legitimate.
Inland Revenue records show some of those named worked elsewhere and received wage subsidies from their real employers, while others said they had never worked for 42 Construction.
Inland Revenue also confirmed there was no evidence of 42 Construction trading at the time the applications were made and the company had outstanding GST and income tax returns.
It had been registered for PAYE since May 2020 but had filed only one employment schedule on that date and none since.
Started in March 2020, the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme helped businesses pay staff who could not work and suffered financial losses because of the pandemic.
The scheme was extended several times into 2022 as the effects of successive lockdowns wore on.
The Ministry of Social Development administrated the subsidy and took a “high trust” approach to applications so as to provide rapid relief for businesses and employers who needed it, the court summary said.
Filimoehala pleaded guilty through his lawyer Graeme Newell before Judge Fitzgibbon and was remanded until July to set a date for his sentence.