Australian tax official charged in $123 million fraud probe

An Australian Federal Police officer handles some of the cash found after they smashed a massive fraud syndicate and seized planes, guns, and luxury cars in Sydney on May 18. (Inset): Officer handles some of the Jewellery found. (AFP)

A senior Australian tax bureaucrat and two of his children are among 10 people charged in connection with a sophisticated tax fraud that police say netted 165 million Australian dollars ($123 million) in less than a year.

Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston faces up to five years in prison if convicted of abusing his position as a public servant by passing information to his son, Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close said Thursday.

His son Adam Cranston, 30, is managing director of a Sydney-based financial services company that police say was at the center of the alleged scam involving payroll taxes. Police arrested him, his sister Lauren Cranston and seven others in raids Wednesday.

They were to be charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to defraud the government to dealing in the proceeds of crime to demanding money with menaces.

The 58-year-old bureaucrat was not thought to be part of the alleged criminal syndicate, which Close said is accused of spending unpaid taxes on luxury homes, racing cars, airplanes, motorbikes, jewelry, art and vintage wine. The group ran a legitimate payroll company contracted to pay staff on behalf of their employers. (AP)

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