HEFTY FINES IN AUSSIE EARTHMOVERS ASBESTOS DOCUMENTS CASE
A company has been ordered to pay about $500,000 and a “principal/owner” convicted over false and misleading documentation involving disposal of more than 1,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil.
It is noted in the court findings that the charge is not one of dumping and that the asbestos involved remains missing.
Paul Mouawad – who later officially changed his name to Boulos Isaac and is also described as an “employee” of Aussie Earthmovers, the sole director of which is his mother – was at the time of the decision to be assessed for community service in lieu of imprisonment and has agreed to pay $60,000 costs.
His sentencing is due early next year.
He has been convicted after pleading guilty of two offences of knowingly supplying fake tipping dockets and a disposal report that claimed the asbestos-contaminated waste had been lawfully disposed of, following a prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
There was evidence Mouawad contracted to separate transporter S A Civil to move the waste, then made several demands for payment, manipulated a document, bought a thermal printer and created false records of the disposal.
The Land and Environment Court found that Aussie Earthmovers Pty Ltd knowingly supplied false and misleading information about the disposal of about 1,400 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil from a building site in Darlington in central Sydney.
“A high penalty is warranted in the circumstances,” Justice Nicola Pain says in her judgment.
Aussie Earthmovers did not appear in court to answer the charges.
Justice Pain fined Aussie Earthmovers a total of $450,000 for the two offences and ordered the company to pay the EPA’s legal costs.
The maximum penalty for knowingly supplying false and misleading information about waste is $500,000 for a corporation.
The court was told Aussie Earthmovers arranged for the removal of 134 truckloads of the asbestos-contaminated waste in June and July 2016.
An investigation by the EPA found one truckload was lawfully disposed of at the Suez Kemps Creek Landfill. It notes the location of the remaining asbestos-contaminated waste is unknown.
Aussie Earthmovers supplied fraudulent waste disposal dockets and a falsified Ticket List Report to the construction company as proof the asbestos-contaminated waste had been lawfully disposed of.
After receiving the fake documents, the construction company then paid Aussie Earthmovers for the removal of asbestos-contaminated soil.
EPA director major compliance and investigations Greg Sheehy welcomed the sentence.
“The judgment shows how seriously this type of criminal behaviour is regarded by both the courts and the EPA,” Sheehy says.
“These crimes by rogue operators defraud honest companies, damage the environment and can harm human health.
“The EPA will pursue offenders and prosecute to the full extent of the law.”
The investigation into Aussie Earthmovers was led by the EPA’s Waste Crime Taskforce, which targets serious and complex waste-related crime and organised criminal behaviour. The Taskforce included experienced investigators, legal and intelligence and waste compliance staff.
For the fraud, after a sentence of 18 months’ prison with a non- parole period of 12 months was overturned on appeal, Mouawad was ordered to perform 280 hours of community service work and pay $225,056 compensation to Peter O’Brien Constructions. But, due to his having previously been made bankrupt, this compensation has not been paid.
He and a relative have a previous conviction for unlawfully transporting waste but Justice Pain notes he no longer performs asbestos removal work and has been offence-free since June 2016, the likelihood of him reoffending in the particular way that occurred in these offences is significantly diminished.