After a nine-month trial followed by seven weeks of deliberation, Adam Cranston, son of former Australian Tax Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, has been found guilty of conspiring with others to defraud over $100 million from the tax office. His co-conspirators, Dev Menon and Jason Cornell Onley were also found guilty.
They were convicted of conspiring to dishonestly cause a loss to the Commonwealth and conspiring to deal with the money of a value of $1,000,000 or more, believing it to be the proceeds of a crime. However, the jury has yet to deliver its verdict on Cranston’s sister, Lauren, and another accused, Patrick Willmott, in the so-called Plutus Payroll scandal.
The scheme involved a financial services group called Plutus Payroll withholding more than $105 million from the tax office over three years, using several second-tier companies. The money allegedly funded the lavish lifestyles of those involved, including luxury cars, aeroplanes, houses, jewellery and artworks.
In 2017, the Australian Federal Police seized 25 motor vehicles, 18 residential properties, 12 motorbikes, watches, and vintage wines, along with loads of cash when they raided several properties connected with Adam Cranston and others.
Several accused conspirators’ lawyers argued in their defence that they had bought Plutus Payroll believing it was a profitable company and were unaware of unpaid taxes.
Once all the verdicts are delivered, it will bring an end to an extraordinarily long and complex trial that began in the NSW Supreme Court in April last year before Justice Anthony Payne.
On January 18 this year, as the jury retired to deliberate, Justice Payne reminded jurors to use their common sense as they considered the large volume of evidence heard about the tax scam. He also told the jury to consider whether the unpaid tax resulted from a sophisticated fraud or a mistake.
Adam Cranston, who is in his mid-thirties, faces a maximum of ten years in prison on the two charges.