News State NSW News Kitson jailed over role in $105m ATO fraud

Kitson jailed over role in $105m ATO fraud

Joshua Kitson Photo: AAP
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The frontman for Australia’s largest alleged tax fraud will spend at least three years behind bars after the “brilliant” scheme was uncovered.

Joshua Meredith Kitson was the former general manager of Plutus Payroll – the company behind a conspiracy alleged to have defrauded the Australian Taxation Office of more than $105 million over three years.

The 37-year-old pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to cause a loss to the Commonwealth.

He was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday to four years and six months in jail with a non-parole period of three years.

The offence carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

Plutus operated under the guise of a payroll business, but was instead formed with the intention of fleecing the ATO of the pay-as-you-go tax and GST it was owed, the agreed facts state.

The scheme would see clients – which included a number of government agencies – transfer their gross payroll monies to Plutus with the expectation the company would then pay their employees’ wages and superannuation and the tax office.

Instead, Plutus would transfer the money on to a complex web of companies it subcontracted the work to – paying employees what they were owed and siphoning off the money meant for the tax office back to the scheme’s co-conspirators.

Fourteen people were charged over their alleged roles in the conspiracy.

The court heard Kitson’s role began in early 2014 when he was brought in as a frontman for Plutus.

He effectively acted as a “mole” or a “plant” for the remaining alleged conspirators and was responsible for bringing in clients, managing the staff of the business and ensuring it appeared “squeaky clean”.

Other staff at Plutus were ignorant as to what was going on. Kitson himself said he “delicately f***en pulled strings around corners to make s*** happen the way (he) wanted it to”.

Before the scheme backfired, Kitson had been so confident of it that he described it in discussions with his alleged co-conspirators as “f***ing brilliant”.

“Look if (the ATO) do figure this thing out, they’ll deserve it … they’ll need rooms of the c***s working for them,” he was recorded saying.

When sentencing Kitson on Wednesday, Justice Anthony Payne said he was satisfied his role in the hierarchy of the alleged scheme “was slightly below the principal architects of the conspiracy”.

“He was not the … brains trust of the scheme … (but his) role should be characterised as essential to the scheme,” he said.

“(He) played a significant and integral role in the conspiracy.”

Justice Payne found Kitson was entitled to a significant discount in sentencing due to his early guilty plea and other factors.

He noted that white-collar crimes were often difficult to detect and prosecute and Kitson’s early guilty plea showed his “genuine remorse”. It had also saved the Crown the cost of running a trial.

Justice Payne said he would have imposed a sentence of nine years in prison with a non-parole period of six years but for Kitson’s early guilty plea and other factors.

Kitson’s supporters cried in court as he was led away. He’ll be eligible for release from February 2022.