AFP reveal details of alleged $17m tax fraud

AFP staff seized a Porsche during the raids. Picture John Grainger
AFP staff seized a Porsche during the raids. Picture John Grainger

 

Organised crime syndicates are diversifying by actively recruiting bankers and accountants, according to police whose investigation into an alleged $17 million tax fraud led to the arrest of 12 people yesterday including the partner of convicted drug runner Michael Ibrahim.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) today indicated it expected other people would be hit with further offences under the Corporations Act.

Alleged syndicate leader George Alex, 49 is due to appear in a Gold Coast court today on charges including conspiracy to defraud and dealing with proceeds of crime worth more than $1,000,000, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 25 years if convicted.

Australian Federal Police investigations commander Kirsty Schofield said organised crime syndicates "are actively recruiting specialists from the finance, accounting, legal and banking sectors."

 

Kirsty Schofield alleges AFP investigators dismantled a sophisticated tax evasion group. Picture: Richard Dobson
Kirsty Schofield alleges AFP investigators dismantled a sophisticated tax evasion group. Picture: Richard Dobson

Ms Schofield said police will allege this syndicate included a mix of financial industry experts "required to commit the fraud and keep it ongoing."

"We allege that (this) syndicate leader brought (such a) group together," she said.

The 18-month investigation involved the AFP, ASIC and Australian Taxation Office, whose assistant commissioner Aislinn Walwyn said "collectively we have pieced together a very complex set of arrangements involving members of a syndicate allegedly engaged in fraud, phoenix activity and tax evasion."

Police will allege the syndicate bought 12 properties, 17 cars, a caravan and a boat with money that should have gone to the ATO. They claim About $1.3 million in Singaporean bank accounts has also been seized.

Caitlin Hall leaves Surry Hills Police Centre last night. Picture: Richard Dobson
Caitlin Hall leaves Surry Hills Police Centre last night. Picture: Richard Dobson

"Some people may think that non-compliance with tax obligations is a victimless crime," Ms Walwyn said. "This couldn't be further from the truth. The whole community is impacted by this behaviour."

ASIC enforcement leader Molly Choucair said it would be investigating potential director's duty breaches under the Corporations Act.

It's understood this could lead to criminal charges.

The syndicate is accused of setting up sham payroll companies, as well as entities to launder money.

"ASIC will investigate individuals who were installed as directors of companies by members of the syndicate," Ms Choucair said.

Construction figure Alex, his son and Ibrahim's partner Caitlin Hall were arrested yesterday during a massive interstate police sting.

Federal agents carried out simultaneous dawn raids between Sydney and Surfers Paradise on Tuesday morning.

Police raid the Earlwood property. Picture: John Grainger
Police raid the Earlwood property. Picture: John Grainger

Hall, 30, was ­arrested at her home in Greystanes and charged with recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime.

Sniffer dogs on the scene. Picture: John Grainger
Sniffer dogs on the scene. Picture: John Grainger

Hall, 30, was ­arrested at her home in Greystanes and charged with recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime.

She was calm and silent as she appeared in a grey tracksuit and puffer jacket at Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday, where she was granted bail on a $100,000 surety.

Prominent lawyer Abbas Soukie offered $30,000 from one "acceptable person" plus a further $70,000 in cash from a second supporter.

The court heard Hall's passport had been seized by investigators and she wouldn't apply for a replacement - so she was not a flight risk.

She was also told to report to Wentworth Police Station each day.

Police prosecutors accepted that those, along with other conditions, eased their concerns.

"Mrs Hall is pleased to have been granted bail, and looks forward to her release from custody," Mr Soukie told The Daily Telegraph.

She will reappear before Downing Centre Local Court on September 16.

The court heard scant details of the allegations against Hall other than it was best described as a "tax avoidance scheme".

George Alex. Picture: John Grainger
George Alex. Picture: John Grainger

One of Hall's co-accused, Cheryl Marion Rostron, was also granted bail immediately after her.

Michael Ibrahim's wife Caitlin Hall.
Michael Ibrahim's wife Caitlin Hall.

One of Hall's co-accused, Cheryl Marion Rostron, was also granted bail immediately after her.

The court heard Rostron was allegedly a signatory on a Singaporean bank account.

She is charged with recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime.

Alex, 49, arrested at his Gold Coast home, and his son Arthur, 22, were each charged with conspiracy to defraud and dealing with proceeds of crime worth more than $100,000 between July 2018 and July this year.

Alex is "alleged to be the head of this criminal syndicate," a Gold Coast court heard yesterday.

Four other men, Pasquale Loccisano, 50, Gordon McAndrew, 58, Mark Bryers, 62, and Kevin McHugh, 69, were arrested and charged with the same Commonwealth ­offences on the Gold Coast.

Adrian Metly, 42, was charged with a proceeds of crime offence.

All of the men had their cases adjourned until today except for Loccisano, who did not oppose extradition and will return to Sydney.

While Alex was facing court yesterday, police sniffer dogs and the Australian Financial Security Authority were going through his home in Earlwood, where underworld figure Pasquale Barbaro was shot dead outside in 2016.

They inspected a 2011 black Porsche Cayenne before towing it away from the Larkhall St property around 11am.

Connie, a neighbour who did not want her last name used, said she had known Alex and his three sisters since he was a child.

"I knew them all as kids. I've lived here for 40 years," she said.

"His father died a long time ago. He lives there with his mother, sister and her family."

She said she hadn't seen George for at least six months because he was living in Queensland.

Connie said she found Barbaro's body the night he was shot in 2016.

"I didn't see anything, I just found a body. I'd heard shots. It was scary," she said.

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said former Ibrahim family bodyguard Semi Ngata, known as Tongan Sam, had been at the house over a period of about 10 months last year.

It is understood Mr Ngata was employed as a bodyguard by Alex.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Ngata.

The neighbour said: "You'd see him (Tongan Sam) in a long leather coat or down at the local cafe."

Solicitor Johnathan Nyst, representing five of the men, told the court: "I have been dumped with a few hundred pages (of court documents).

"I haven't had the chance to speak but none appear to be in a show cause position, including George Alex, who is allege



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