THE state’s highest appeal court has thrown out a bid by a convicted fraudster to have his 12-year jail sentence reduced for swindling more than $10 million from a local horse stud.
Rajesh Chimanlal Upadhyaya – the former head of finance for Emirates Park in Murrurundi – will remain behind bars until at least 2023 after the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal refused his appeal in a 23-page judgement.
Justices Mark Leeming, Megan Latham and Stephen Campbell dismissed four grounds he tried to appeal his sentence for 14 counts of defrauding a company and dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage of $10.75 million.
Upadhyaya was a director for the horse stud, a member of the board and the financial director of the operations at the Murrurundi property.
Depending on the weather conditions, the horses were fed both oats and hay to supplement the green pastures on the property. Upadhyaya was then responsible for ordering the fodder, authorising the payment of invoices to suppliers and then counter-signing cheques for payment of the invoices.
Updahyaya had a company, Yashraj Pty Limited, which operated two businesses, Tamworth Quality Grains and Feedpoint, and “caused falsely inflated invoices to be issued” for hay and/or oats.
The offending took place over a five-year period from September, 2005, to December, 2010, where Upadhyaya created invoices for thousands of tonnes of oats and hay – far more than what the horses needed and what was actually delivered.
“The first invoice overstated the supply by 28 per cent and the second by 33 per cent. The proportion of fraudulent content in the invoices soon escalated and typically, in the end, the applicant was overcharging by 80 to 90 per cent,” Justice Campbell said in his reasons.
He was convicted of all counts by the jury before Judge Donna Woodburne imposed a minimum non-parole period of seven-years-and-nine-months after she found “the offender engaged in various serious criminal conducts exhibiting a high-level of criminality”.
She said that was her conclusion after examining the time, “the premeditation, the considerable dishonesty exhibited, the gross abuse of trust and the size of the financial advantage involved in the loss incurred” – something the panel of three appeal judges agreed with.
“Her Honour placed emphasis on the size of the advantage obtained by the applicant rather than on the extent of the loss suffered by the corporate victim. For my part I can see no error in this approach or in her Honour’s conclusion,” Justice Campbell said.
“I am not satisfied that the applicant has demonstrated that the sentence passed was unreasonable or plainly unjust.”
Upadhyaya will be eligible for parole in May, 2023, and was ordered to pay $750,000 in compensation to Emirates Park – the maximum amount the court can order.