Not guilty: jury clears former ATO executive Michael Cranston of misusing his position


Michael Cranston (fourth left) speaks to the media outside of the Downing Centre Courts in Sydney, Friday, February 15, 2019. Former Australian Taxation Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston has been found not guilty of misusing his position to help his son. (AAP Image/Peter Rae) NO ARCHIVING

Michael Cranston, a former senior public service executive, has been cleared by a jury of two charges relating to misusing his position to benefit a family member.

The former Australian Taxation Officer deputy commissioner for taxation, private groups and high wealth individuals stepped down in May 2017 after it was revealed an Australian Federal Police investigation had targeted his son Adam, who was one of nine people charged over an alleged tax fraud conspiracy worth $165 million.

Four other ATO officials were investigated for potential breaches of the Australian Public Service code of conduct, but all were cleared.

Cranston was the only ATO official to be charged, after the AFP established that it had tapped phone calls in which Adam spoke to his father about the scheme.

The AFP did not allege Cranston was involved in the scheme, but had followed up on requests from his son for information about audits conducted by the ATO.

READ MORE: Verona Burgess: Cranston fell at the most basic ethical hurdle drummed into every public servant

According to media reports from the three-week trial, Cranston’s barrister claimed his client was trying to push his son “away from the potential for being involved with the wrong kind of people.”

“In my own way I was just trying to tell him I couldn’t take the matter any further,” Cranston told the court.

“I was concerned because it’s the first time my son raised anything with me to do with taxation and I was grappling with the conflict question … Son-father things can be taken out of context.”

The ATO has not commented on the court case since hearings began.

In 2017, Commissioner Chris Jordan acknowledged the precarious situation for the organisation’s reputation, saying “safeguards put in place had worked”.

READ MORE: Tom Burton’s analysis: ATO haunted by its secretive history

Top photo: Michael Cranston (fourth left) speaks to the media outside of the Downing Centre Courts in Sydney, Friday February 15, 2019. Former Australian Taxation Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston has been found not guilty of misusing his position to help his son. AAP Image/Peter Rae

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