Working in conjunction with a range of other agencies, both within Australia and abroad, the Australian Federal Police has charged several people in three different states as part of an investigation into a $17-million payroll tax fraud syndicate.
The AFP called it “a co-ordinated strike against a transnational and serious organised criminal syndicate using labour hire and payroll companies associated with the building and construction industry to defraud the Commonwealth”.
Charges have been brought against 12 people, include a 49-year-old man from Surfers Paradise. He is alleged to be the director of this organised crime syndicate comprising of a mix of financial industry experts and former bankers.
Syndicate kept the money instead of paying tax
It will be alleged in court that the syndicate had effective control of labour hire companies undertaking legitimate work in the building and construction industry.
The syndicate then outsourced the processing of their payroll services to separate payroll companies, which they allegedly also operated for the sole purpose of not paying mandatory pay-as-you-go withholding tax to the Australian Taxation Office.
Employee and contractor wages, superannuation and insurance were correctly paid. However, money allocated to be paid to the ATO for tax obligations was diverted and allegedly laundered through a variety of other entities.
Fraud netted gang $17-million in just two years
The total value of the fraud has been calculated at more than $17-million since July 2018.
The AFP has now restrained assets allegedly belonging to the criminal syndicate. These include 12 properties, 17 motor vehicles, 65 bank accounts, a caravan and a boat with a total value of approximately $21-million.
Assistance was also rendered by the Singapore Police Force, which assisted in identifying and restraining approximately $1.3-million held in Singapore bank accounts.
The joint agency investigation included the AFP, ATO and Australian Securities and Investments Commission as part of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), as well as assistance by major banks ANZ and Westpac.