UPDATE @ JULY 24 | A GOLD COAST construction identity has been extradited from Queensland to New South Wales overnight, to face charges over a multi million dollar tax fraud syndicate.
49-year-old George Alex was arrested in Surfers Paradise earlier this week, accused of heading up an elaborate syndicate operating across multiple states.
The group allegedly defrauded the commonwealth through labour hire and payroll companies, to the tune of $17 million.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
Twelve people were arrested in total, following raids across Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT on Tuesday.
That included six Queenslanders, three of which were living on the Gold Coast.
The alleged leader of the group, George Alex, is expected to face a Sydney court on multiple charges today.
EARLIER @ JULY 22 | A GOLD COAST construction identity has been among twelve arrested in dawn raids over a multi-million dollar interstate tax fraud syndicate.
Australian Federal Police executed search warrants across 10 locations across south-east Queensland, Sydney and the ACT on Tuesday following a major investigation into the $17 million fraud operation.
The AFP began investigating the syndicate back in 2018 after they caught the attention of investigators who were looking into a number of other serious organised crime offences.
It’s alleged the group were using labour hire and payroll companies associated with the building and construction industry to defraud the Commonwealth out of millions of dollars.
A 49-year-old Surfers Paradise man, accused of being the ringleader of the operation, was taken into custody early on Tuesday morning. He has since been charged with one count of conspire with the intention of dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth and one count of conspire to deal with proceeds of crime, money or property worth $1,000,000 or more. He faces a maximum penalty of 35 years behind bars for the two charges.
The construction identity’s primary co-conspirators included a mix of financial industry experts and former bankers, demonstrating the level of expertise required to operate and facilitate such a complex fraud.
A 58-year-old Hope Island man as well as two other men from Sydney are also facing identical charges.
A 69-year-old from Bonogin and a 30-year-old woman are also among the eight others charged over the syndicate.
They are all expected to face court over the coming days, with officers applying for their extradition to NSW to face the charges.
The AFP has also seized $21 million in assets including 12 properties, 17 vehicles, 65 bank accounts, a caravan and a boat. $1.3 million of that was money being held in Singapore bank accounts.
AFP Commander Investigations, Eastern Command, Kirsty Schofield said yesterday’s activity is the result of outstanding detective work by AFP investigators, who developed a unique approach to this syndicate, decimating what would have been a long-term income stream for organised crime.
“Transnational and serious organised crime groups are evolving. No longer do they target any specific crime type or commodity, they adapt to their environments by recruiting professional enablers to provide experience in the financial, legal or any other field they feel can earn them money. This investigation is just one example of how the AFP stays ahead of these groups, formulating innovative techniques to combat the complex and rapidly changing environment of Organised Crime in Australia” she said.
“The AFP is always looking to out-smart these organised crime groups – we make sure we have investigators with specialist skills and look to work with partner agencies and private industry to counter a broader range of criminal offending. We will continue to target organised crime at their most vulnerable, namely when they try and legitimise their illegally-obtain proceeds of crime.”
ATO Assistant Commissioner Aislinn Walwyn, who leads the agency’s operational activity under the SFCT, said that these arrests show that the taskforce is well equipped to deal with the most serious cases of financial crime.
“A common theme of serious financial crime is a business that may appear legitimate on the surface, but once you peel back the layers, you discover a web of well-organised syndicated activity, like phoenixing, which causes real harm to people’s livelihoods and lines the pockets of people who abuse the system,” she said.
“The SFCT is focused on pursuing people who deliberately try to rip off the country by evading their taxes. Not complying with tax obligations is not a victimless crime – the whole community is impacted by this behaviour. Revenue loss is a significant injury suffered by all Australians.”
“Together, we have pieced together a very complex set of arrangements involving members of a syndicate allegedly engaged in fraud, phoenix activity and tax evasion. The debt recovery actions we have taken ensure we can claw back as much of the money illegally obtained by these groups and direct it back to the community where it belongs.”
An ASIC spokesperson said this investigation highlights the importance of ASIC’s position as a member of the SFCT to conduct joint agency work into serious financial crime and illegal phoenix activity, which continues to be a priority for ASIC.
“ASIC views seriously any attempt by individuals to facilitate or conceal illegal phoenix activity and other related contraventions of the law. Illegal phoenix activity is unacceptable and together with our SFCT member agencies, we will work to ensure any persons suspected of engaging in such activity, including directors who breach their duties, are held to account.”