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Ex-tax man jailed over tobacco bribes

Greedy ... Philip James Roper leaves court in 2006.

Greedy ... Philip James Roper leaves court in 2006. Photo: Wayne Taylor

A former tax office investigator has been jailed for corruptly taking bribes from illegal tobacco producers.

A County Court judge said today that Philip James Roper, 52, had been motivated by greed and had tarnished the reputation of other investigators in carrying out important duties.

Roper, who served for nine years as a federal policeman before joining the Australian Tax Office, was found guilty by a jury of dishonestly asking for a benefit, dishonestly receiving a benefit and theft.

He also pleaded guilty to dishonestly receiving a benefit and abuse of public office.

In sentencing this morning, Judge Joe Gullaci said Roper had come into contact with Jimmy Wang, and a middle man, who were involved in the illegal tobacco, or chop-chop, industry.

The jury decided that Roper's relationship with both men was corrupt.

The offences occurred between June 2001 and the middle of 2004 by Roper asking Wang for the names and addresses of other chop-chop sellers. Roper told Wang, who he met at the Gotham City brothel, he would look after him.

Judge Gullaci said that Wang had believed that the arrangement was beneficial because it would remove competitors.

The information Wang provided also allowed Roper to steal tobacco leaf and cutting machines, which were sold and the profits taken by Roper.

Roper also stole five 100 kilogram bales of tobacco leaf from a Dandenong property. These were sold and he shared in the profits.

He also "parked" a prosecution of a woman who had sold chop-chop at the Caribbean Garden Markets by telling his colleagues that her address could not be determined.

The woman's husband had also been selling chop-chop at a supermarket in Frankston North.

Judge Gullaci said that Roper, a father of three adult children, had destroyed his own reputation by his actions but since the offences occurred, had rehabilitated himself and was not likely to reoffend in the same way.

He described the crimes of Roper as an "abuse of trust and power" and that Roper was motivated by the lure of easy money, free meals, meeting in hotels and being feted by criminals. "But at the bottom of it, your motivation ... was greed," said Judge Gullaci.

Roper was jailed for two-and-a-half years but will be released on a recognisance order of $1000 after 14 months.

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