Raids were conducted across the country last week as part of Operation Protego, in a crackdown on GST fraud. The raids were conducted by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) with the support of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
Warrants were executed against 19 people across each state, and not the two territories, as part of coordinated action by the ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT).
The ATO cautioned Australians last month about GST fraud, specifically in situations where fake busineese were submitting false Business Activity Statements in an attempt to get a GST refund. At the time, the ATO estimated the fraud to be at $850 million worth of perpetration by 40,000 individuals.
ATO deputy commissioner and SFCT chief Will Day said the raids serve a message to those wishing to commit fraud.
“For those that have already committed this fraud, we know who you are, and you will need to repay the fake refunds you have obtained. You could face severe consequences, including jail if you do not speak to us before we knock on your door. Come forward now or face potentially tougher penalties,” Day said.
Day also said the raids would not be the last conducted by the organisation.
AFP commander economic, corporate crime and corruption Christopher Woods added the AFP takes explotiation of Australia’s tax system seriously.
“Every dollar fraudulently obtained represents lost funds that could have been used to benefit everyday Australians in our community.
“The AFP is committed to combatting financial crimes and we will continue to work diligently with our partners in the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce to disrupt and dismantle criminals seeking to cheat the tax system,” Woods said.
State-based policies forces assisted the SFCT, including Victoria Police, NSW Police, Qld Police Service, SA Police, Tasmania Police and WA Police.
In a media release, the ATO also stated it wished to remind the community it does not offer loans or administer government disaster payments.