Ausdrill boss Ron Sayers and Barminco founder Peter Bartlett are sharpening their bits for a New Year showdown with Federal authorities who accuse them of being tax cheats.
The old friends and accountant Deborah Grace will have a trial lasting up to 12 weeks on charges that they dishonestly caused a loss or risk of loss to the Commonwealth. If convicted, they face up to a decade behind bars.
The lawyers representing the two men and Ms Grace told the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court they would be pleading not guilty.
The 60-year-old Mr Sayers is the managing director of Ausdrill and is seen as a key driver of its successful growth. The 59-year-old Mr Bartlett is a big shareholder in the sharemarket-listed company through his family interests and a founder of unlisted mining contractor Barminco.
Lawyer Robert Richter, representing the accused men, said there was speculation from time to time about what will happen at the publicly listed company in light of the charges. He described his clients as "respected business people".
"There is a huge public interest in expediting this matter," he said.
The charges relate to alleged events a decade ago and arise from the Australian Crime Commission's and Australian Taxation Office's Wickenby probe into foreign tax schemes.
Commonwealth prosecutors asked the matter be adjourned to June 27 so they could sort out document, while the defence team pushed for an earlier adjournment.
Magistrate Keith Chapman adjourned the case until May 23 and set a provisional trial date of February 1.
All of the accused were released on bail.