NATION Taxman backs ‘ ruined’ deputy
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.