Nine arrested over $165 million tax fraud; ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston faces charges

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australian taxation office
A logo of Australian Taxation Office. Facebook/ATO

The Australian Federal Police has conducted raids in line with an alleged $165 million tax fraud syndicate. Nearly 300 police officers participated in these raids across Sydney, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands.

Sydney Morning Herald reports nine people arrested. One of them is Adam Cranston, son of Australian Taxation Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston. He is due to face Central Local Court on Thursday after his arrest in Bondi. Officers also raided property development firm Rommark’s Double Bay office on Wednesday as part of the investigation.

Six people have been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth, while two face money laundering charges and another with extortion. Luxury vehicles, 18 residential properties, 12 motorbikes, racing cars, two aircraft firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine, artworks and $1 million from a safe deposit box were seized under proceeds of crime.

ATO deputy commissioner faces charges

Michael Cranston will also be charged in connection with the tax fraud syndicate after what police described as one of the biggest white collar fraud investigations in the history of Australia. The ATO deputy commissioner is slated to face Sydney's Central Local Court on June 13 for the charge of abusing his power as a public official.

Cranston, who has been with the ATO for more than 30 years, allegedly accessed restricted information on an ATO audit for his son. The syndicate appeared to utilise the money to afford a "lavish lifestyle.”

Andrew Mills, Acting Commissioner of Taxation, issued a statement to confirm that warrants were executed on several people who allegedly held information relevant to the investigation into the massive fraud. “One of the warrants was served on one of the ATO’s long-serving senior executive officers,” news.com.au quotes him as saying.

He conceded the situation was serious and ordered a Code of Conduct investigation into some other employees. Mills revealed two other ATO officers were being investigated for potential code of conduct breaches.

It is alleged that the tax fraud ring involved a payroll company funnelling wage payments through a second-tier company. It would only pay a fraction of the income tax required. Adam Cranston was accused of being a “co-conspirator” in the scam.

AFP deputy commissioner Leanne Close told reporters in Sydney that they were alleging it was an organised syndicate involved in a conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth. It is believed that $165 million was removed from the tax pool.

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