On Wednesday, the Australian Federal Police arrested nine people after carrying out 28 raids. The arrests were the result of months of work under the police investigation named “Operation Elbris”, involving a $165 million theft from the Commonwealth via the Australian Tax Office (ATO).
Amongst those arrested is deputy ATO commissioner, Michael Cranston, who the ABC reports has worked for the ATO for more than three decades and is involved in the organisation’s private groups and high-wealth segment. Cranston’s son, Adam and his daughter Lauren Anne Cranston have also been arrested for fraud as part of the alleged criminal conspiracy. Police do not believe that Michael Cranston was aware of all the details of said conspiracy.
In what is being described as the most significant white-collar criminal investigation in Australia, police allege that Cranston and others fraudulently obtained the $165 million through tax evasion.
Dating back to June 2016, the investigation shows that the conspirators obtained the funds by setting up a payroll company. While the company itself was legitimate, it then used a two-tier system to avoid paying PAYG commitments to the ATO. The police say that the alleged fraud was made up of multiple, smaller incidents in order to avoid drawing attention.
The ABC reports that more than 200 AFP officers worked closely with the ATO and the acting commissioner of taxation, Andrew Mills, to investigate the complex structure established by the syndicate.
As part of the police raids on Wednesday, various high end assets were seized including 25 motor vehicles, $15 million in bank accounts, two aircraft and 18 residential properties.
Mr Mills says that the ATO is confident that its systems have not been compromised, and that an internal Australian Public Service code of conduct investigation was also underway into a small number of other ATO employees who have been suspended without pay.
The investigation is continuing.