A jury has found three people guilty of tax fraud for their part in the “Ben Hur” schemes.
After seven weeks of deliberations, jurors found Adam Cranston, Dev Menon and Jason Onley, were found guilty of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth and conspiring to deal with the proceeds of crime valued at $1 million or more in the Plutus Payroll scheme which netted over $105 million that should have gone to the Australian Taxation Office. The maximum penalty they face after being convicted of conspiring to deal in proceeds of crime valued at $1 million or more is 25 years’ imprisonment.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Kirsty Schofield praised the dedication and tenacity of the investigators who helped shepherd the 6-year investigation through an 8-month criminal trial.
“Taxation fraud investigations are inherently complex, but the scale and breadth of alleged criminal offending we identified in this matter made it a more challenging task,” Assistant Commissioner Schofield said.
“It is important we see matters such as this through to a final result in court and show that Australians will not tolerate this type of organised criminal activity that ultimately steals from us all.”
Acting Deputy Commissioner and SFCT Chief John Ford said today’s outcome sends a clear warning to tax cheats that you will be caught, and you will be held to account.
‘This isn’t the case of an accidental oversight – this was blatant and deliberate fraud that robbed the Australian community.’
‘Tax crime is not victimless. It takes money out of the hip pockets of all Australians, reducing the budget that is available to fund community services that many people rely on.’
The jury is still considering their verdicts for two other co-accused, Lauren Cranston and Patrick Willmott, over their alleged roles.
In the trial, which lasted for almost nine months, jurors were told that the financial services group withheld tax from the ATO using a number of second-tier companies.
These fraudulently obtained amounts funded lavish lifestyles featuring fast cars, planes and real estate.
Adam Cranston would use his father Michael Cranston, who was deputy commissioner of the ATO at the time, to find out whether the tax office knew about their scheme, the jury heard.
The five accused denied their guilt, variously pointing the blame at each other and saying they thought the company Plutus, which was named after the Greek god of abundance and wealth, was a legitimate enterprise.