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The president of the Hells Angels, touted as a major scalp in a tax crackdown on bikie gangs, has escaped without a conviction after his accountant took the blame for tax irregularities.
Angelo Pandeli, 46, from Pyrmont, was charged with failing to furnish tax returns after he ignored a notice from the Australian Taxation Office to provide a detailed income statement.
The notice, served on him at Sydney Airport on September 2, gave him two months to provide a return for the 2014-2015 financial year. He was issued with a court attendance notice in May when he failed to provide it.
In a move reminiscent of the Prohibition-era crackdown on the US mafia, the ATO and Australian Federal Police have targeted bikie gang members for tax evasion as part of a strategy to disrupt organised crime in Australia.
Chicago mobster Al Capone, known as Scarface, was eventually imprisoned on tax evasion, a novel strategy adopted by law enforcement during the era.
A media release issued by the ATO and AFP in May said 200 outlaw motorcycle gang members had been targeted for tax evasion in a week-long operation.
The ATO issued notices for failing to comply with tax obligations including the correct lodgment of returns, paying taxes and correctly reporting income they had earned.
"To date, almost half the notices have been served, including 11 notices for tax debts totalling nearly $4 million," the media release said.
Mr Pandeli was one of the highest-profile targets of the operation.
However, his case ended in a fizzle on Tuesday when Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson recorded no penalty and no conviction.
Mr Pandeli, who lives overseas for six to eight months of the year, pleaded guilty on Tuesday but his lawyer Warwick Korn submitted an affidavit from his accountant who took responsibility for the irregularities.
The accountant lodged a return but his software didn't notify him it hadn't gone through, hence a penalty was received.
The outstanding payment of about $3600 related to interest earned from money refunded to Mr Pandeli by the ATO.
"It's a really, really unusual case and it's been very carefully explained what has happened," Ms Atkinson said, adding that Mr Pandeli had "a reasonable belief to trust the tax agent".
"The accountant has certainly fallen on his sword," she said.
Mr Pandeli has long been in the sights of law enforcement. Following the death of Comanchero bikie Anthony Zervas during a brawl with rival gang the Hells Angels at Sydney Airport in 2009, Mr Pandeli's Pyrmont unit was raided but he was not charged. He was the president of one of two Sydney Hells Angels chapters at the time.
The tax evasion crackdown is part of the National Anti-Gangs Squad's Operation Morpheus, aimed at "detection, deterrence and disruption of OMCGs and their members".
In 2015-16, Operation Morpheus targeted 668 taxpayers and raised tax liabilities of $13.3 million. A further $55,000 in fines was raised following 35 prosecutions for non-lodgement.
In March, Justice Minister Michael Keenan announced a further $39 million for the national taskforce following the arrest of its 1000th offender.