19/11/2021 - 15:30

Whyte jailed for 12 years over $27m theft

19/11/2021 - 15:30

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Western Australian bureaucrat Paul Whyte has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after stealing more than $27 million in public funds.

Whyte jailed for 12 years over $27m theft
Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Western Australian bureaucrat Paul Whyte has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after stealing more than $27 million in public funds in what has been described as Australia's biggest corruption by a public servant.

The former high-flyer appeared in the Supreme Court on Friday via videolink from custody, after pleading guilty to 564 corruption and property laundering charges.

Prior to his arrest, the court was told Whyte engaging in "persistent, systematic and audacious corruption", stealing more than $27.4 million over more than 11 years.

It is understood the personal benefit to Whyte exceeded $11 million.

Justice Joseph McGrath sentenced the 58-year-old to 12 years in prison, describing the offences as a "well-planned and executed theft from the community" to fund his lavish lifestyle and racehorse obsession.

Whyte used his influential roles in WA's public housing and communities departments to authorise payment of false invoices to shell companies which had bank accounts controlled by Whyte and another person.

Several other people have been charged in connection with the offending, but Whyte has accepted responsibility for the entirety of the theft.

Defence counsel Michael Tudori likened his client to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: a distinguished public service veteran who had a gambling addiction, a need to "big-note himself" and a love of the notoriety that came with his racehorse involvement.

Whyte attempted to take his own life just days after being arrested.

Mr Tudori said his client had shown genuine remorse and contrition, and had co-operated with authorities.

Justice McGrath noted Whyte had suffered from sexual abuse as a child and had battled depression throughout his life.

But he was not satisfied there was a causal link between Whyte's psychological difficulties and his "sophisticated" offending.

The court heard the state had recovered $5.1 million of the stolen proceeds, but was unlikely to salvage the balance.

Whyte will be eligibile for parole in 2029, with today's sentence accounting for the time he has already served behind bars.

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