Victorian County Court judge Michael Bourke has sentenced Jason Kotz, owner of former fruit exporter JAK Fruit, to six months in jail for forging invoices in an attempt to keep his business afloat, according to The Age.
The court heard Kotz falsified invoices between January and April 2010, disguising used invoices as new ones to procure more than A$1m from ANZ Bank, which had credit arrangements with JAK Fruit. Kotz had access to a bank loan facility, which would pay up to 90 per cent on invoices issued to overseas purchases of fruit, the Melbourne daily reported from the court case.
JAK Fruit went into voluntary administration with debts of more than A$10m in April 2010, and the court heard Kotz had illegally obtained the money in a desperate bid to ease the pressure on his business.
The Mildura-based company was a major exporter of grapes and citrus to Asian markets in particular, and was reportedly in financial trouble as a result of the global financial crisis and drought in Sunraysia, the company’s primary source of grapes.
Kotz told Fruitnet.com in 2010 his company faced a “raft of issues,” including a decline in grape exports due to challenging conditions for both growers and exporters.
Judge Michael said that while Kotz’s sentencing was the only option considering the seriousness of the crimes, the prison term was regrettable as Kotz was not motivated by greed, reported The Age.
Kotz pleaded guilty to eight charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception, and while A$500,000 of the money remains unrecovered, Bourke said Kotz was remorseful and his plea of guilty prevented a long and costly investigation.