Disgraced Edinburgh scientist sentenced to three years in Australian jail for misusing public funds
A disgraced Scot has been sentenced to three years in prison after she misused tens of thousands of Australian dollars in public money to buy a bizarre string of items.
Queensland's former chief scientist Suzanne Miller used taxpayers’ funds on purchases that included a silk jacket, an electric scooter, a drum kit and private health insurance.
At the time of the fraud, Edinburgh-born Miller, 55, was head of the Queensland Museum Network (QMN). She also used a corporate credit card to pay her daughter’s private school fees.
The 55-year-old was removed from her roles as Chief Scientist and chief executive officer of the QMN following an investigation by the state's Crime and Corruption Commission.
Describing her actions as "blatant", "protracted" and a "significant breach of trust", Brisbane Magistrate Noel Nunan ordered Miller to serve a total of three months behind bars, after which her jail term will be suspended and she will be placed on a three-year good behaviour bond.
Miller appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court via video link after pleading guilty in March to causing financial detriment to the QMN between February 2014 and July 2017.
The court heard that she also paid her daughter's school fees using the corporate credit card. Those amounts were later repaid.
Miller was appointed as chief scientist in late 2016, while continuing to work as QMN's chief executive and director.
Despite initially earning $288,000 a year — which increased to a combined salary of $367,000 after she became chief scientist — Mr Cook told the court the "significant" wage was not enough to meet Miller’s lifestyle.
He went on to describe her offending as "a gross abuse of high office".
The court heard Miller misused a corporate credit card 18 times between August 2014 and June 2016, spending more than $30,000.
Her purchases included a $935 silk jacket, tickets to a theatre show, an electric scooter and a drum kit.
She also used the corporate card to transfer money into her mortgage account and make fraudulent travel claims.
As well as making unauthorised purchases, Miller improperly obtained private health insurance worth $45,000.
Miller's defence team told the court she was remorseful, had pleaded guilty and paid restitution.
The court heard she had already spent 26 days behind bars after choosing to surrender herself into custody at a previous court appearance.
This included 14 days in solitary confinement due to Covid-19 restrictions.
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