Operation Elbrus court results revealed: Lawyer sentenced to 12 years in prison

Five people have now been found guilty in NSW High Court over their role in a syndicate alleged to have committed $105 million in tax fraud over a three-year period.

This ends the 11-month trial and overturns the conviction of another offender who was previously subject to a non-publication order.

A 52-year-old Sydney lawyer was sentenced to 12 years in prison in June 2022 for knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime and extorting funds from offenders participating in a syndicate seeking to steal more than US$105 million from the Commonwealth Dollars in unpaid taxes was 3 years.

The Rose Bay man was found guilty of trafficking in crime proceeds worth at least $1 million. He received a non-parole period of seven years and six months. Assets in an escrow account controlled by the man were also withheld.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Kirsty Schofield said the finding was the result of careful investigation and financial analysis following the first Operation Elbrus arrests.

“This arrest results from a thorough and forensic analysis of the money that flowed from the large-scale tax fraud and underscores the commitment of everyone involved in this matter,” she said.

“As we gathered more evidence of the racketeering conspiracy, we were able to connect it to the flow of millions of dollars from syndicate members facilitated by this man.

“This phrase should send a clear message to those involved in criminal behavior – we will always go after the money, and often this can result in criminal charges or asset confiscation, or both.”

Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Taxation Administration (ATO) and head of the Serious Financial Crimes Task Force (SFCT), John Ford, said the ruling reflected the seriousness of his offence.

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“This is a significant result that underscores that we will protect Australia’s revenue and hold criminals accountable.

“This was the eighth judgment result for Operation Elbrus and we have continued to see successful outcomes in court.”

Operation Elbrus was an investigation led by the AFP, with significant support from the ATO as part of the SFCT, into a large-scale and organized tax fraud conspiracy.

The operation uncovered a large-scale and organized tax fraud and money laundering conspiracy to use Plutus Payroll Australia Pty Ltd and other payroll companies to collect amounts of money payable to the ATO as Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGW) withholding taxes , diverting goods and services tax in favor of the conspirators.

The Rose Bay man was a lawyer at the time of his arrest. He provided the mechanism to disguise that over $24 million that was deposited into and then remitted from his law firm’s escrow account were the proceeds of crimes originating from others whom the Plutus tax fraud conspirators for a share extorted from their proceeds.

Regarding his role, Judge Peter Johnson noted that he was a vital participant in laundering the proceeds of the crime:

“The perpetrator played a crucial role as a lawyer in the crime, using his professional status as a lawyer and access to an escrow account that provided a degree of cover for the criminal activities involved.”

Judge Peter Johnson also found that his offense was in the high range of objective gravity for offenses of this nature, reflecting substantial moral guilt.

“We have a broad web where we focus on financial criminals and professional enablers who choose to engage in serious financial crime. If you interfere, you’ll be caught,’ said Mr. Ford.

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“Tax crime affects everyone. The Plutus tax scam has ripped off innocent creditors and deprived the public of valuable funds that could otherwise be used to fund essential services,” Mr Ford said.

The matter was followed up by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

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