Alleged conspirators in a $100m tax fraud scheme were caught on a police phone tap describing it as the largest “in Australia’s history”, a court has been told.
The trial of five people who are alleged to have ripped off $105m in pay as you go (PAYG) tax and GST from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) got under way in Sydney’s Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Adam Cranston, Lauren Cranston, Dev Menon, Jason Onley and Patrick Wilmott have pleaded not guilty to their alleged roles in the Plutus Payroll scandal.
All five have pleaded not guilty to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the commonwealth and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Crown prosecutor Paul McGuire told the jury during his opening address on Tuesday afternoon that the group, through Plutus, from March 2014 to May 2017 withheld “extraordinarily large amounts of pay as you go and GST” that was supposed to have been paid to the ATO.
The court was told that Plutus was hired by companies to manage their payrolls.
As well as paying wages, it was supposed to remit PAYG and GST to the ATO however only paid a portion of that money, Mr McGuire said.
“It’s the crown case that those involved in the Plutus Payroll conspiracy, including the five accused, had no intention of paying all of the PAYG and GST it collected for the tax office,” Mr McGuire said.
The court was told that the company was named after the Greek god of abundance and wealth.
“In circumstances, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, of an alleged $105m fraud, you might think the name Plutus was a very appropriate selection indeed,” he said.
The court was told that the group was targeted by police as part of Operation Elbrus and by October 2017 officers were listening to their phone calls.
Mr McGuire said during one conversation in January 2017, Mr Cranston and Mr Menon were caught discussing the size of the alleged fraud.
He told the court that the jury would hear a tape of Mr Cranston saying: “If this was fully uncovered and they knew exactly what was going on it would be f***ing Ben-Hur, man. This is a big-sized company.”
It’s alleged that Mr Menon responded: “It would be the biggest tax fraud in Australia’s history. Definitely, there is no question, it would be the biggest tax fraud.”
The trial will continue with Mr McGuire’s opening statements on Wednesday.