A criminal syndicate recruited banking and finance experts to help it scam more than $17 million from the Australian Tax Office, federal police will allege.
Construction identity George Alex, 49, is accused of leading the syndicate and allegedly recruited finance industry specialists to set up the sophisticated money-laundering operation.
Commander Kirsty Schofield from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it was a complex, multinational operation.
“This syndicate specifically included a mix of financial industry experts to provide the level of expertise required to commit the fraud and keep it ongoing,” she said.
“We will allege that these people were part of the syndicate and they have been charged.”
AFP officers arrested 12 people yesterday during coordinated raids on 10 properties across Sydney, the Gold Coast and the ACT.
Mr Alex has been charged with conspiring with the intention of dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth and conspiring to deal with the proceeds of crime.
Nine other men are facing similar charges.
Two women, aged 50 and 30, have been charged with recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime and face a maximum of 12 years in prison if found guilty.
The 30-year-old woman is Caitlin Hall, who is married to convicted drug boss Michael Ibrahim.
The AFP will allege the syndicate controlled a number of labour hire companies in the building and construction industry, and outsourced their payroll services to separate payroll companies.
Investigators will allege in court that employee and contractor wages, superannuation and insurance were all correctly paid but the money allocated to be paid to the ATO for tax obligations was diverted and allegedly laundered.
The AFP will allege that when these payroll companies accrued a substantial tax debt they would be “phoenixed” or abandoned, and a new company would be created in its place.
Assistant ATO Commissioner Aislinn Walwyn said many businesses involved in serious financial crime appeared legitimate on the surface.
“But once you peel back the layers you discover a web of well-organised, syndicated activity like phoenixing,” she said.
“It causes real harm to people’s livelihoods and lines the pockets of those who abuse the system.
“Some people may think that non-compliance with tax obligations is a victimless crime but it couldn’t be further from the truth — the whole community is impacted by this behaviour.”
The AFP alleges the syndicate moved the money through a number of other entities to disguise its origin, before allegedly transferring it into bank accounts controlled by its members.
The AFP, the ATO and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission worked together on the 18 month-long investigation.
Investigators have frozen 65 Australian bank accounts allegedly connected to the syndicate.
They also recovered $1.3 million held in Singapore-based accounts, along with 12 properties, 17 vehicles, a caravan and a boat worth a total of $21 million.