Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has been commended for reconsidering his withdrawal of legal aid funding to Adam Cranston who awaits sentencing for masterminding the $105 million Plutus Payroll conspiracy.
On Friday, Mr Dreyfus approved funding for Cranston’s legal costs ending a six- week hiatus in the case as the fraudster was left hanging, unable to pay his lawyer’s bills at the tail-end of one of the most complex tax fraud cases in the country’s history.
Cranston was found guilty in March in the NSW Supreme Court alongside four others including his younger sister of conspiring to commit tax fraud and money laundering.
In May, Justice Anthony Payne chided the attorney-general for withdrawing funding after the guilty verdicts were handed down but before Cranston could argue for how long he should remain behind bars.
On Tuesday, the judge received confirmation the attorney-general and his department had reconsidered their decision and had again opted to help Cranston pay for his legal bills at the conclusion of the case.
“I do understand that it’s not the usual course but I’m very grateful that a prompt decision and reconsideration has occurred,” Justice Payne said.
The judge previously criticised the department for withdrawing what would have been around $40,000 in legal fees for a $105 million tax fraud, one of the largest in Australia’s history.
Described by Cranston on covert recordings as the “Ben Hur” of tax fraud, Plutus Payroll diverted at least $105 million from government coffers through a web of second-tier companies directed on paper by vulnerable people who did not understand them.
The 36-year-old son of former deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston was found guilty of conspiring to commit tax fraud and money laundering.
Money intended for the government instead went on exotic cars, properties, and other assets seized following Cranston’s arrest.
Two other co-conspirators, Patrick Willmott and Lauren Cranston, have been jailed for at most nine years and eight years respectively, with non-parole periods of six years and five years each.
Dev Menon and Jason Onley will learn their fates later this month while a sentence hearing for Adam Cranston has been scheduled for August 4.