A senior manager of Plutus Payroll has admitted to his involvement in a conspiracy that allegedly defrauded the tax office of more than $130 million.
Joshua Meredith Kitson, the former general manager of the company at the heart of the scheme, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court to conspiring to dishonestly cause loss to the commonwealth.
Mr Kitson is the first to plead guilty of the 14 people charged over the historic tax fraud, which includes the son and daughter of a then deputy commissioner of taxation.
Police allege Plutus conspirators siphoned off millions of dollars owed in pay-as-you-go tax through a complex network of companies over three years and laundered the funds as loans, consulting fees and property investments.
Mr Kitson, 37, allegedly received more than half a million dollars that was disguised as a loan and routed through a trust account operated by his friend and Plutus founder, Simon Anquetil.
Wiretaps recorded Mr Kitson saying he had “collected 500 so far which came out from Simon” where “the paperwork on it will look like it’s a loan from his trust”.
“His trust loan will be the money in there so I don’t have to pay tax on it,” he said.
Bank records revealed that on August 31, 2016, Plutus shifted $1.45 million to related company Uneek, which later that day transferred $1.05 million to Mr Anquetil’s trust account, SPA Ventures.
SPA Ventures then paid Mr Kitson $540,000 in three instalments over the next six weeks.
Mr Kitson also attended meetings in early 2017 where the alleged conspirators discussed how to avoid liability arising from an Australian Tax Office investigation into the scheme.
At one meeting in March 2017, Mr Kitson discussed “the margin” with Mr Anquetil and lawyer Dev Menon, in what police say was a reference to the percentage of the payroll Plutus was transferring to its other companies.
Responding to suspicions the ATO had figured out “the margin”, Mr Kitson said the invoice hid the margin and there was no way the tax office could work it out.
Mr Kitson is to be sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court following a hearing in February 2019.
Accused journalist to meet prosecutors
Veteran journalist Steve Barrett, who has been charged with blackmailing the Plutus conspirators over the alleged fraud, was the only other of the accused to attend the hearing on Tuesday.
His lawyer said they were meeting with Commonwealth prosecutors on December 14 to discuss his case.
The Commonwealth is continuing to produce evidence for the accused conspirators 18 months after their arrests, with the most recent evidence provided two weeks ago.
The court heard the brief had climbed to six USBs’ worth, which equated to more than one million pages.
Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson said “it’s probably one of the biggest briefs we’ve had” and urged the commonwealth to consolidate the evidence by the end of the year.
The parties will return on February 5 when the court is expected to set dates for a committal hearing, which will test the strength of the Commonwealth’s evidence.