Three men were found guilty in the Supreme Court of NSW today (7 March 2023) for their roles in a syndicate alleged to have conducted a $105 million tax fraud over a three year period.
The three men, aged 36, 39, and 52, were found guilty of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth and conspiring to deal with the proceeds of crime valued at $1 million or more. The maximum penalty they face after being convicted of conspiring to deal in proceeds of crime valued at $1 million or more is 25 years’ imprisonment.
A total of 16 people were charged as part of the AFP-led investigation, codenamed Operation Elbrus that began in 2016 and received significant assistance from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as part of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT).
The investigation exposed large-scale and organised tax fraud and money laundering conspiracies that used payroll service entities to divert monies payable to the ATO as Pay-As-You-Go withholding (PAYGW) tax and Goods and Services tax (GST). All matters were prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Kirsty Schofield praised the dedication and tenacity of the investigators who helped shepherd the six-year investigation through an eight-month criminal trial.
“Taxation fraud investigations are inherently complex, but the scale and breadth of alleged criminal offending we identified in this matter made it a more challenging task,” Assistant Commissioner Schofield said.
“It is important we see matters such as this through to a final result in court and show that Australians will not tolerate this type of organised criminal activity that ultimately steals from us all.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief John Ford said today’s outcome sends a clear warning to tax cheats that you will be caught, and you will be held to account.
‘This isn’t the case of an accidental oversight – this was blatant and deliberate fraud that robbed the Australian community.’
‘Tax crime is not victimless. It takes money out of the hip pockets of all Australians, reducing the budget that is available to fund community services that many people rely on.’
Sentencing outcomes for Operation Elbrus
- A Liverpool man, 39, one of the founders of the payroll services company, Plutus Payroll, and one of the architects of the fraudulent scheme, pleaded guilty in November 2019 to conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime with a value of $1 million or more. He was sentenced to seven years and six months’ jail on 31 July 2020, with a non-parole period of five years;
- A Surry Hills man, 41, the former general manager of Plutus Payroll, entered a guilty plea to conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth in November 2018 and was sentenced to four years and six months’ jail in August 2019, with a non-parole period of three years;
- A Cronulla man, 38, entered a guilty plea in June 2019 for dealing in proceeds of crime in excess of $100,000. He was sentenced to three years and four months’ jail in February 2020, with a non-parole period of two years;
- A Cherrybrook man, 60, entered a guilty plea on 20 August 2019 for negligently dealing in proceeds of crime with a value of $1 million or more. He was sentenced to jail for two years and three months in June 2020, with a minimum period of one year and four months, which was later reduced on appeal to two years’ jail with a minimum period of one year and one month; and
- A Wollongong woman, 29, entered a guilty plea on 15 November 2019 for conspiring with others to defraud the Commonwealth and conspiring to knowingly deal in the proceeds of crime with a value of $1,000,000 or more. She was sentenced to four years jail in July 2020, with a non-parole period of two years and six months.
A number of court matters rising out of Operation Elbrus remain ongoing.