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03 May 2024, 12:47pm
Media Release

Victorian property linked to GST fraud forfeited to the Commonwealth

A property in regional Victoria, paid for by a man who was jailed for an $800,000 GST fraud, has been forfeited to the Commonwealth.

The man, 31, was sentenced to imprisonment in August 2023, after pleading guilty to criminal offences related to fraudulent GST claims. The claims related to a registered landscaping business that had no business activity, no income, no assets and no expenses. The man lodged more than 45 false Business Activity Statements with the ATO between 1 January 2018 and 30 November 2021.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) referred the matter to the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT), with the two agencies working in partnership to achieve the successful outcome.

The property in the Ballarat suburb of Mount Helen was restrained by the CACT on 30 January 2024, as suspected proceeds of crime.

The restraining order relied upon a suspicion that money from the fraud was used to purchase the property, which is worth an estimated $500,000. It was further alleged the man transferred the fraudulently obtained GST refunds into an account held by a family member, who then transferred the sale amount to a real estate agent. The property was also registered in another person’s name.

The AFP submitted to the County Court of Victoria that the money transfers and ownership details were done to obscure the origin of the purchasing funds and the real ownership of the property.

The Court declared on 15 April 2024, that forfeiture had occurred under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth).

Commander of the AFP-led CACT, Allison Buck, said the AFP and ATO worked to ensure hard-working Australians were not disadvantaged by people who tried to cheat the tax system.

“The AFP and our domestic and international partners share information to identify those who accumulate wealth they cannot explain. We are relentless in our efforts to ensure they cannot profit from exploiting the community,” Commander Buck said.

“This case shows that even if people try to obscure the source of their wealth it does not put them out of reach of the criminal justice system.”

“Law-abiding Australians work hard to buy their first home: they go to work, they pay their taxes and they save up for a deposit. Criminals flaunt their illicit wealth and try and skip the steps everyone else has to take. This is not on. You will be caught and your access to any illegally purchased assets will be short-lived.”

“The AFP and ATO work closely with other partner agencies, including through the CACT and the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), to keep Australians safe from anyone trying to exploit the system. I thank the ATO for their tireless work alongside us in this matter.”

ATO Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief John Ford said: “Our message remains clear – if you don’t operate a business, you don’t need an ABN, and you should not lodge a BAS. This is fraud.”

“We are constantly reminding the community not to become involved in GST fraud. We work closely with law enforcement agencies to ensure anyone who engages in GST fraud will be prosecuted with the full force of the law,” Mr Ford said.

“We urge anyone already involved in this fraud to come forward now on a voluntary basis rather than face tougher consequences later.”

The man had been sentenced on 23 August 2023, to seven years and six months’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of five years imprisonment for the following offences:

  • Two counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage from the Commonwealth, contrary to section 134.2(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • One counts of attempting to dishonestly obtain a financial advantage from the Commonwealth, contrary to sections 11.1 and 134.2(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
  • One counts of dealing in proceeds of crime worth $100,000 or more, contrary to section 400.4(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The funds from the sale of the property will be deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account, which is managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority on behalf of the Commonwealth.

The funds are then redistributed by the Government to benefit the community through crime prevention, intervention or diversion programs, or other law enforcement initiatives.

The AFP-led CACT was established in 2012 as part of a multi-agency crackdown on criminal assets. The CACT has a simple mandate: to take the profit out of crime. Working with the ATO and other CACT partner agencies, the CACT diverts money out of the criminal economy and into initiatives that benefit the Australian community.

The ATO-led SFCT is a multi-agency taskforce, established on 1 July 2015. The SFCT is equipped with the resources, data-matching capability and the international and domestic intelligence-sharing relationships to uncover even the most complex tax evasion schemes.

For more information, visit Australian Taxation Office, Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT).

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