A contractor who was paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars to take asbestos contaminated soil to a lawful landfill has been handed a 12-month term of imprisonment, to be served in the community, for faking waste disposal dockets.
Paul Mouawad was sentenced in the Land and Environment Court on 26 February 2021 following prosecution by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) over the disposal of 1,400 tonnes of waste containing asbestos.
An investigation by the EPA found 134 truckloads of asbestos-contaminated soil were collected from a building site in Darlington central Sydney in June and July 2016, but only one truckload was lawfully disposed of at the Elizabeth Drive Landfill at Kemps Creek.
The court heard that Mouawad supplied 29 fraudulent waste disposal dockets and a fake Ticket List Report to the construction company engaged on the building site in an attempt to show the asbestos waste was disposed of lawfully, at a licensed landfill.
The EPA told the court that Mr Mouawad’s actions concealed the true location of the asbestos waste posing “indeterminable risks to the environment and human health, now and potentially, into the future”.
The EPA submitted the offences were aggravated by Mouawad’s disregard for public safety and the planned and organised nature of the crime. The investigation revealed that in the lead up to the offences, Mouawad had purchased a thermal printer, which he used to create falsified waste disposal dockets.
Justice Nicola Pain directed Mouawad, who pleaded guilty to two charges of knowingly supplying false and misleading information about waste, to serve his 12-month term of imprisonment via an intensive correction order in the community. She also ordered Mouawad to perform 250 hours of community service work, not commit any offences and pay the EPA’s legal costs of $60,000.
Each offence carried a maximum penalty of $240,000 or imprisonment for 18 months or both for an individual.
The company Mouawad was employed by, Aussie Earthmovers, was convicted and fined $450,000 on two charges of knowingly supplying false and misleading information about the disposal of the waste in November 2020, following a separate EPA prosecution.
EPA director major compliance and investigations Greg Sheehy said rogue operators caused harm to both honest companies and the environment.
“The sentence shows that criminal behaviour does not pay,” he said. “The EPA will pursue and prosecute offenders who try to make a quick buck by damaging the environment.”
NSW Police separately charged Mouawad with defrauding the construction company by providing the false invoices. He pleaded guilty to a fraud charge in September 2018 and was sentenced to a 15-month intensive correction order following an appeal to the NSW District Court. He was also ordered to repay the construction company $225,056. The compensation has not yet been paid.
Mouawad is also being prosecuted by the EPA for three additional offences, which allege waste, including waste containing asbestos, was illegally disposed of at Arcadia in Sydney’s north-west. He has pleaded not guilty to those matters, which are still before the Court.