Australian tax official questioned over £95m fraud claims

Michael Cranston, the deputy commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office, has been suspended and could face charges in relation to a A$165m (£95m) payroll scam allegedly carried out by a syndicate involved in tax fraud activity and organised crime which included his son

Michael Cranston has been issued a court attendance notice after his son Adam Cranston was one of nine people charged with fraud following police raids on home and businesses in the state of New South Wales. 

The fraud scheme allegedly operated by offering payroll services to clients who wanted to meet their tax obligations. Payments were diverted into companies run by the conspirators, who were said to have used the money to fund expensive purchases including homes, cars, artworks jewellery and motorbikes, which were seized by police during the raids.

The gang involving Adam Cranston is believed to have siphoned off around A$165m since June 2016, making the fraud one of the largest ever white collar crime incidents reported in Australia.

Andrew Mills, acting commissioner of taxation, confirmed that an ongoing joint investigation by the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Federal Police had served a warrant on one of the Australian Tax Office’s long-serving senior executive officers.

‘The investigation has so far not revealed any evidence of actual intervention or influence on audit cases, or of money being refunded, or of tax liability being changed.

‘The information I have to date shows no compromise of the operations of our administration.

‘Our systems, controls and procedures worked effectively and we have been able to successfully isolate and protect the investigation, working well with the Australian Federal Police over many months to build a picture of what has been happening,’ Mills said.

Mills also said he had commissioned internal investigations under the tax authority’s code of conduct into ‘a very small number of other employees’ and pledged the Australian Tax Office ‘will be forensic in our examination of what has occurred. The people being investigated have been suspended without pay.’

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