The man who created a computer program that allowed restaurants to defraud the tax department has been granted an absolute discharge.

The decision means Stephane Mercier won't have a criminal record after pleading guilty to two charges of fraud.

Mercier had no computer science degree and testified it took him less than two days to create the program called the Zapper.

Restaurant cash registers that used the Zapper could make transactions disappear. So the restaurant would appear to be making less money and consequently would pay less tax.

Two Baton Rouge restaurants, one in Laval and one in Montreal, used the programs to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.

They later decided to cooperate with investigators. They paid back the money and pointed police toward Mercier.

He testified his bosses at the company he worked at six years ago asked him if such a program was possible.

He said he took that as a challenge. Mercier told Quebec Court judge Claude Parent it was child's play. He said you didn't need to be a sorcerer to write a program like the Zapper.

He says he was paid $700 to install it in one cash register, as well as a dozen free meals.

The prosecution recommended a fine for Mercier. But the defence said that would leave him with a criminal record. That would mean Mercier, who now has a million dollar a year computer company with half his business in the United States, would no longer be allowed to travel there.

Parent ruled it was in Mercier's interest and would not hurt the public interest if he benefited from an absolute discharge.