NA­TION Taxman backs ‘ ru­ined’ deputy

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - NICK HANSEN

AUS­TRALIA’S chief tax of­fi­cer leapt to the de­fence of his fallen deputy Michael Cranston, say­ing ac­cused multi- mil­lion- dol­lar fraud­ster Adam Cranston has “ru­ined” his fa­ther’s ca­reer and rep­u­ta­tion.

Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice Com­mis­sioner Chris Jor­dan told the National Press Club in Can­berra he was proud of Op­er­a­tion El­brus, which busted the al­leged $ 144 mil­lion Plu­tus Pay­roll fraud scheme.

Adam Cranston and sis­ter Lau­ren Cranston were ar­rested in May and charged with de­fraud­ing the Com­mon­wealth. Their fa­ther, Deputy Tax Com­mis­sioner Michael Cranston, was charged with al­legedly try­ing to use his in­flu­ence and po­si­tion to help his son as the scam be­gan to fail.

Speak­ing at the National Press Club yes­ter­day, Mr Jor­dan said the joint AFP- ATO probe into Plu­tus was ex­cel­lent in­ves­tiga­tive work, but had left the ATO “dis­mayed”.

“The in­volve­ment of Adam Cranston, the son of ... Michael Cranston, has been dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend,” Mr Jor­dan said.

“The charges against Michael Cranston too have been equally hard to be­lieved and at the ATO we are dis­mayed at the events that have un­folded.

“The con­nec­tion with and al­leged ac­tions be­cause of his son have ru­ined his ca­reer and his rep­u­ta­tion and have com­pro­mised our stand­ing and raised ques­tions about the in­tegrity of oth­ers within the ATO.”

Two as­sis­tant com­mis­sion­ers un­der Cranston Sr have been stood down pend­ing an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Mr Jor­dan stressed Cranston Sr, who had a dec­o­rated ca­reer of more than 35 years at the ATO, had not been charged with fraud. He also sought to dis­pel be­liefs Cranston Sr may have ac­cessed of­flim­its tax records for his son.

“Find­ings to date show Michael Cranston is not sus­pected of be­ing in­volved in the syn­di­cate or de­fraud­ing the Com­mon­wealth,” he said.

“Ev­i­dence to date shows that at no time did Michael Cranston di­rectly ac­cess tax­payer data, sys­tems or the au­dit cases un­der this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“There is no ev­i­dence of ac­tual in­ter­ven­tion or in­flu­ence on the au­dit cases or of money be­ing re­funded or of the tax li­a­bil­ity be­ing changed.”

He said when Adam Cranston al­legedly reached out to his fa­ther for help in Fe­bru­ary, as the AFP and ATO was is­su­ing gar­nishee or­ders on the web of dodgy ac­counts and com­pa­nies, it was “too late”.

He said as soon as the ATO es­tab­lished a “fam­ily link” to the Plu­tus scan­dal, safe­guards were put in place to en­sure the in­tegrity of Op­er­a­tion El­brus. THE man in charge of smash­ing the black econ­omy be­lieves some pri­vacy laws could be dumped to stop dole re­cip­i­ents sneak­ily earn­ing ex­tra cash.

Black Econ­omy Task­force chair­man Michael An­drew said wel­fare re­cip­i­ents were rak­ing in ex­tra in­come by moon­light­ing as Uber driv­ers and do­ing cash jobs. He said tax­pay­ers were be­ing taken for a ride by wel­fare re­cip­i­ents who knew how to game the sys­tem.

Mr An­drew ques­tioned whether some pri­vacy laws, which stop in­for­ma­tion shar­ing be­tween gov­ern­ment agen­cies, should be scrapped.

“Peo­ple are dou­ble dip­ping,’’ he said. “The wel­fare re­cip­i­ents are very smart. They know ex­actly what they have to earn or to clear be­fore they lose their wel­fare ben­e­fits.

“There’s a lot of Uber driv­ers on wel­fare ( but) it’s very hard to trace them and we can’t ac­tu­ally iden­tify in­di­vid­u­ally who they are. The Gov­ern­ment has so much in­for­ma­tion which it doesn’t use.”

Mr An­drew said many de­part­ments did not share in­for­ma­tion be­cause of pri­vacy con­cerns. He said some of the pri­vacy pro­vi­sions were set up at a time when tech­nol­ogy was not as good, and he ques­tioned whether some of the safe­guards were still needed.

RE­NEE VIELLARIS

ATO Com­mis­sioner Chris Jor­dan.

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