Police smash tax fraud Syndicate-ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston embroiled in $165m fraud investigation


18/05/2017

More to follow with news a senior journo Steve Barrett being allegedly involved with a blackmail plot with a member of the conspiracy Daniel Rostankovski  who was allegedly aggrieved he was not getting his fair share…See down for more details

ATO deputy allegedly sought to seek a deal for son in $165 m tax fraud,,, Mr Cranston has been issued a future court attendance notice for the charge of abusing his position as a public official. He is due to appear in Sydney’s Central Local Court on June 13.

His son, Adam Cranston, 30, and his daughter, Lauren Anne Cranston, 24, have also been charged following an eight-month investigation, codenamed Operation Elbrus.

It’s alleged ATO deputy Michael Cranston accessed restricted information on an ATO audit for his son, but police do not believe he knew about his son’s alleged fraud syndicate.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close said the syndicate appeared to use the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle”.

Among the items seized under proceeds of crime were 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

ATO Second Commissioner Andrew Mills said two other ATO officers were also being investigated internally for a potential code of conduct breaches. It’s believed they tried to look up information on the ATO’s audit at the behest of Michael Cranston….Robbo

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Police will allege the group had a lavish lifestyle and diverted taxpayer funds to buy planes, sports cars, jewellery, property, artwork and fine wines.

As part of the operation, officers have seized:

  • 25 motor vehicles
  • $15 million in bank accounts
  • 18 residential properties
  • 12 motorbikes
  • Two aircraft
  • Firearms
  • Jewellery
  • Artwork
  • Vintage wines
  • $1 million in a safe deposit box

Acting AFP deputy operations commissioner Leanne Close said the ATO got involved in the investigation when alleged evidence of fraud mounted.

 


Veteran Sydney journalist Steve Barrett allegedly blackmailed tax syndicate

By Rachel Olding

A veteran Sydney journalist allegedly blackmailed members of a $165 million tax fraud syndicate after conspirators in the group had a falling out, it can be revealed.

Explosive documents tendered in Central Local Court on Thursday state that well-known television journalist and former crime reporter Steve Barrett allegedly blackmailed two members of the syndicate during a meeting at the offices of Clamenz Lawyers on February 1st 2017

Eight people were arrested on Thursday over the alleged tax fraud syndicate including Adam and Laura Cranston, the son and daughter of Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston.

Michael Cranston has also been issued a future court attendance notice for a charge of abusing his position as a public official.

The police documents reveal that one syndicate member, Daniel Rostankovski, turned on other conspirators and allegedly tried to extort money from them.

At the February 1 meeting, Mr Rostankovski and Mr Barrett allegedly threatened to expose the conspiracy in the media if money wasn’t handed over.

“Police allege … Rostankovski and Barrett attempted to blackmail the co-conspirators in relation to their involvement in the conspiracy,” the police documents state.

Mr Rostankovski allegedly demanded $5 million or Mr Barrett would expose the group in the media.

Mr Rostankovski felt like he had been deceived by the group as other members were receiving more money than him.

The group allegedly agreed to their demands if he didn’t go to the media, the police or the ATO. An agreement was signed that outlined such undertakings, the police documents reveal.

Mr Rostankovski, a 28-year-old from Waterloo, was granted strict bail in Central Local Court on Thursday. Mr Barrett has not been charged. He did not return Fairfax Media’s calls on Thursday.

Barrett, who previously worked for 60 Minutes, was a long-time employee as a producer in the Channel 7 newsroom but left the network in March 2016, before the alleged blackmail took place.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close said the syndicate appeared to use the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle”.

Among the items seized under proceeds of crime were 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

ATO Second Commissioner Andrew Mills said two other ATO officers were also being investigated internally for potential code of conduct breaches. It’s believed they tried to look up information on the ATO’s audit at the behest of Michael Cranston.

The announcement came after nearly 300 police officers on Wednesday carried out raids across Sydney, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands, arresting nine people.

Among those who appeared in court on Thursday are Mr Rostankovski, 28, from Waterloo; Jason Cornell Onley, 47, from Vaucluse; Daniel Hausman, 47, from Woollahra; Christopher James Guillan, 46, from Sutherland; Dev Menon, 33, from Wahroonga and Devyn Hammon, 24, from Balgownie.

Police will allege in court that the syndicate members ran a legitimate payroll company, Plutus Payroll, and accepted money from legitimate clients to process payroll on their behalf.

“This money was transferred to seven sub-contracted companies known as Tier 2 companies, which then made payroll payments to individual workers or clients,” the federal police said in a statement.

Tax office investigators, who helped the federal police during the investigation, estimate the amount of tax obligations not paid to the tax office to be $165 million.

Mr Mills described Michael Cranston as one of the organisation’s “long-serving senior officers” who had “quite an illustrious [career] up until this point”.

Mr Mills said he was confident the tax office’s systems had not been compromised nor breached and the accused employees were not able to obtain any information.

“The investigation has so far not revealed any evidence of actual intervention or influence on audit cases, or of money being refunded, or of tax liability being changed,” Mr Mills said.

“The information I have to date shows no compromise of the operations of our administration. Our systems, controls and procedures worked effectively and we have been able to successfully isolate and protect the investigation, working well with the Australian Federal Police over many months to build a picture of what has been happening.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull congratulated the federal police for the investigation and “taking the action that they have”.

 

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston allegedly sought to cut deal for son Adam Cranston

By Nick McKenzie

Deputy ATO commissioner to be charged

Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Tax Office Michael Cranston allegedly sought to pressure colleagues to cut a deal with his son after learning he was the subject of a major tax fraud investigation, sources said.

Mr Cranston learnt of the investigation after his son, Adam Cranston, approached him and told his father that he believed his company was the subject of an ongoing inquiry.

Michael Cranston.Michael Cranston. Photo: Rob Homer

Michael Cranston allegedly subsequently approached a Tax Office assistant commissioner and raised the prospect that his son’s company was being targeted.

 

Michael Cranston allegedly simultaneously sought to downplay his son’s involvement in the alleged criminal scheme.

  • Two high-ranking Tax Office officials who spoke to Michael Cranston about the inquiry into his son have also been stood down, pending further investigation.
  • It is understood that Michael Cranston allegedly inquired as to whether a deal could be struck to resolve any probe.
  • The Tax Office sometimes resolves matters by agreeing to receive a payment from those accused of tax fraud.
  • Michael Cranston also allegedly sought to reach out to investigators involved in the multi-agency investigation but was unable to do so because the Australian Federal Police had warned them that such an approach might be likely.

One of nine people being arrested over a $165 million tax fraud investigation.

One of nine people being arrested over a $165 million tax fraud investigation.  Photo: AAP/Australian Federal Police

Adam Cranston was allegedly involved in the unlawful tax fraud scheme from the middle of 2016.

The scheme, which allowed the accused to make tens of millions of dollars in allegedly illegal profits, was started much earlier by another of the accused.

Police seized $1 million from a safe deposit box during Wednesday's raids.

Police seized $1 million from a safe deposit box during Wednesday’s raids. Photo: Australian Federal Police

Adam Cranston allegedly displayed unexplained wealth, including a collection of prestige cars.

But Michael Cranston is suspected to have been unaware that his son was the subject of the probe until Adam approached him.

Tax tsar’s son charged over alleged scam that netted $165 million

 

It comes after his son Adam was charged over his role in a $165 million tax scam.

The Daily Telegraph today revealed Cranston’s son, Adam was charged over his alleged role in a fraud syndicate that police claim stole more than $165 million — one of the biggest white-collar crimes in Australia’s history.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal Australian Federal Police yesterday arrested Adam Cranston at his Bondi flat in one of 27 raids on homes and businesses across Sydney.

Adam Cranston, son of ATO boss Michael Cranston, is arrested at his Bondi flat yesterday over his role a $165 million fraud syndicate. Picture: Police Media

Cranston was charged last night with conspiracy to ­defraud the commonwealth and is expected to face Central Local Court today.

It’s understood eight others were arrested and facing possible charges.

The 30-year-old Cranston is the son of ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, but there is no suggestion Michael Cranston had any involvement in or ­knowledge of the criminal syndicate.

Adam Cranston on his wedding day to wife Elizabeth. There is no suggestion Elizabeth was involved in the alleged scam. Picture: Facebook

Sources close to the investigation claim Adam was a “co-conspirator” in a group that used an elaborate tax scam to fund a celebrity lifestyle that included prime Sydney real estate, boats — and even a racing car team.

“This investigation has ­uncovered high-level organised activity; it is complex (and) sophisticated,” the source last night told The Daily Telegraph.

Adam Cranston marries wife Elizabeth. There is no suggestion Elizabeth was involved in the alleged scam.

“I think it will take the police a long time to figure out exactly how much money (is involved).”

It is believed police will ­allege the fraud is one of the largest ever seen in Australia.

Investigators allege Sydney financial services firm SYNEP, of which Adam is co-chairman and managing ­director, was part of the ­operation.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston
Adam Cranston is escorted from the scene at Bondi yesterday. Picture: Police Media.

Payroll contractor Plutus Payroll, controlled by SYNEP, was the centrepiece of the ­alleged hustle.

Police will claim it would allegedly funnel wage payments through a series of “second tier” companies. who then paid the ATO only a fraction of the required income tax.

The remaining withheld tax would then allegedly flow into the pockets of syndicate operators.

The scammers believed they had struck a sweet spot where each individual fraud was too small to prompt ­action from the ATO.

One source said it was “like saying to your schoolteacher, ‘I’ve done most of my homework, I’ll bring the rest next week’.”

The net tightened when both the AFP and ATO ­noticed alleged discrepancies in parallel investigations.

Police escort Adam Cranston from the scene yesterday. Picture: Police Media

The sum of the frauds is understood to be more than $165 million, with the extent of Cranston’s own alleged profits expected to be revealed in court.

Investigators said their probe focused on a 12-month snapshot of the group’s alleged activities.

Sources also allege the scheme had another sinister angle.

How the scam was carried out

Police will claim the syndicate would pay struggling people a regular fee so they could set up the second tier companies in their names. However, the syndicate had total control of the companies.

Plutus Payroll hit the headlines earlier this month when the ATO froze its bank ­accounts over unpaid tax debts, meaning its clients’ staff could not be paid.

Police examine a vehicle at Adam Cranston’s Bondi flat yesterday. Picture: Police Media

In a statement earlier this month, Plutus apologised to its customers “continuing ­distress caused by our inability to process your pay since 27 April”.

“Our dispute is with the Australian Taxation Office who believe that Plutus owes the ATO money,” the statement said.

“Acting in a draconian and unfair manner, the ATO froze Plutus’ bank accounts on 27 April without prior warning or any consultation.

“We received no notice of intention to audit, no complaint and no other advance warning of noncompliance from the ATO.

 

“When the ATO acted, without notice, they froze our bank accounts and we became unable to pay our contractors the money owed to them.”

On May 10, the company announced the ATO had ­allowed the release of the money.

With more than 35 years at ATO, Michael Cranston has spearheaded many public campaigns to catch tax cheats.

“I am responsible for ­increasing compliance and willing participation in our tax and super system,” one of his social media accounts states.

“I recently chaired the OECD Task Force on Tax Crimes.”

The ATO last night ­refused to comment on the­ ­investigation.

And Michael Cranston did not respond to questions put to him through the ATO.

The ATO said it “will not comment on ongoing investigations at this time”.

“Due to privacy considerations the ATO is unable to comment on individual ­employees,” it said.

A CASE OF LIVE FAST AND FRY YOUNG

POLICE claim assets linked to an alleged $165 million tax fraud case include sports cars, expensive properties, boats and even a race team.

Cars were a particular passion for one of the alleged “co-conspirators” of the crime. Adam Cranston loved them so much there’s even a wedding day photo of the now 30-year-old with his wife and a slick race car.

There is no suggestion Cranston’s wife had any knowledge of or involvement in the alleged fraud.

A source said that among the property seized by police is an orange and blue Ford GT in Cranston’s ­possession.

Cranston started a race car team last year. And he named it after the ­financial services firm now at the centre of the alleged crime, SYNEP. The team competed in the Australian Prototype Series and in February celebrated a podium finish at Mount Panorama.


ATO official Michael Cranston facing charges over son’s alleged 65m fraud – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

ATO official Michael Cranston facing charges over son’s alleged $165m fraud

18/03/17 Updated 8 minutes ago

One of Australia’s most senior tax officials has been embroiled in a major fraud investigation following the arrest of his son, which allegedly involved $165 million being stolen from the Commonwealth.

Deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston has been issued with a court attendance notice, while his son, Adam Cranston, was arrested in Sydney yesterday as part of an Australian Federal Police sting.

Michael Cranston will be charged with abusing his position as a public official relating to the fraud, although he is not believed to be a conspirator.

Adam Cranston, 30, was arrested at his flat in the affluent beach suburb of Bondi during raids yesterday and has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth.

At a press conference in Sydney today, officials said Michael Cranston could have been unwittingly involved in his son’s alleged crimes.

In all, nine people were arrested in Sydney yesterday as the AFP carried out 28 raids.

At a press conference today, the AFP alleged the group used “lavish lifestyles” to help hide the funds, including 25 motor vehicles, $15 million in cash, 18 residential properties and two aircraft.

Adam Cranston will face Central Local Court in Sydney later today.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said the arrests served as a warning.

“This is a major government crackdown and what the events today with this major fraud bust … demonstrates is that if you are a crook and you are seeking to defraud the taxpayer, we will find you,” he said.

“We will track you down. We will make sure you are brought to justice.”

The ABC understands Michael Cranston has been employed by the ATO for more than three decades and is involved in the organisation’s private groups and high wealth segment.

Part of his biography on his LinkedIn account reads: “My personal philosophy is that the tax system belongs to all Australians and we all need to work closely together to ensure that it is administered fairly, efficiently and causes the least pain for all that participate.”

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