Property bought in regional Victoria with fraudulent funds seized by authorities

The individual responsible for the purchase, a 31-year-old man, had been sentenced to imprisonment in August 2023 for his involvement in an $800,000 GST fraud scheme.

The Commonwealth has seized a property located in regional Victoria following revelations that it was purchased with funds obtained through fraudulent activities.

The individual responsible for the purchase, a 31-year-old man, had been sentenced to imprisonment in August 2023 for his involvement in an $800,000 GST fraud scheme.

The fraudulent activities revolved around fictitious claims made by a registered landscaping business, which, in reality, had no legitimate business operations. Over a period spanning from January 2018 to November 2021, the man submitted more than 45 false Business Activity Statements to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), claiming refunds based on non-existent business activity.

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Upon uncovering the fraudulent scheme, the ATO referred the matter to the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce (CACT). Through collaborative efforts, the agencies successfully restrained the property in Mount Helen, Ballarat, suspected to be purchased with proceeds from the fraudulent activity.

Investigations revealed that the man had transferred the illicitly obtained GST refunds to a family member’s account, who then facilitated the purchase of the property through a real estate agent. The property was also registered under another individual’s name, in an attempt to conceal its true ownership.

The AFP presented evidence to the County Court of Victoria, demonstrating that the transactions and ownership arrangements were designed to obscure the origins of the funds and the true ownership of the property. Consequently, on April 15, 2024, the Court declared the forfeiture of the property under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth).

Commander Allison Buck, leading the AFP-led CACT, emphasized the agencies’ commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the tax system and ensuring that those who attempt to exploit it are held accountable. Similarly, ATO Deputy Commissioner John Ford reiterated the seriousness of GST fraud and urged individuals involved to come forward voluntarily.

“This case shows that even if people try to obscure the source of their wealth it does not put them out of reach of the criminal justice system.”

The man, who had already been sentenced to seven years and six months’ imprisonment for various offenses including dishonestly obtaining financial advantages from the Commonwealth and dealing in proceeds of crime, now faces the loss of the property purchased through illicit means.

Proceeds from the sale of the forfeited property will be deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account, managed by the Australian Financial Security Authority on behalf of the Commonwealth. These funds will then be utilized for community benefit, supporting crime prevention, intervention, or diversion programs, as part of the government’s efforts to combat criminal activities and protect the welfare of Australians.

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The successful outcome underscores the collaborative efforts of agencies such as the AFP-led CACT and the ATO-led SFCT in combating financial crimes and ensuring compliance with taxation laws. Established to dismantle criminal enterprises and divert ill-gotten gains, these task forces play a crucial role in upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the interests of the community.

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