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ATO official Michael Cranston facing charges over son's alleged $165m fraud

ATO official Michael Cranston facing charges over son's alleged $165m fraud

By Nour Haydar and Riley Stuart

18 May 2017,

(Translation of this article appears in Arabic section)

One of Australia's most senior tax officials has been embroiled in a major fraud investigation involving his son in which $165 million was allegedly stolen from the Commonwealth.

Deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston has been issued with a court attendance notice, while his son, Adam Cranston, was arrested in Sydney yesterday as part of an Australian Federal Police sting.

Michael Cranston will be charged with abusing his position as a public official relating to the fraud, although he is not believed to be a conspirator.

Adam Cranston, 30, was arrested at his flat in the affluent beach suburb of Bondi during raids yesterday and has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth.

At a press conference in Sydney today, officials said Michael Cranston could have been unwittingly involved in his son's alleged crimes.

Acting commissioner of taxation Andrew Mills said two other ATO employees had been suspended while the organisation carried out an internal examination of what occurred.

"The people being investigated have been suspended without pay," he said.

Mr Mills said he could not overstate the seriousness of these matters.

"Australians must have a tax administration that they can trust and the people of the ATO must be of the utmost integrity and good judgement. This is even more important for those in leadership positions."

In all, nine people were arrested in Sydney yesterday as the AFP carried out 28 raids.

'Lavish lifestyles' allegedly hid money

At a press conference today, the AFP alleged the group used "lavish lifestyles" to help hide the funds, including 25 motor vehicles, $15 million in cash, 18 residential properties and two aircraft among their assets.

The AFP also seized firearms, jewellery, artwork, vintage wines and $1 million from a safe deposit box as part of their investigation.

Acting AFP deputy operations commissioner Leanne Close said the money had been "stolen from the community".

"So far investigations have taken us back to June 2016. So the $165 million we have identified is from that point onwards," she said.

"Because we see so much evidential material over the last two days, we will take time to examine that and see if that is where the conspiracy ends or if there is further charges or further money that has been defrauded."

Adam Cranston will face Central Local Court in Sydney later today.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said the arrests served as a warning.

"This is a major government crackdown and what the events today with this major fraud bust ... demonstrates is that if you are a crook and you are seeking to defraud the taxpayer, we will find you," he said.

"We will track you down. We will make sure you are brought to justice."

The ABC understands Michael Cranston has been employed by the ATO for more than three decades and is involved in the organisation's private groups and high wealth segment.

Part of his biography on his LinkedIn account reads: "My personal philosophy is that the tax system belongs to all Australians and we all need to work closely together to ensure that it is administered fairly, efficiently and causes the least pain for all that participate."


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