A vintage car seized by the Australian Federal Police. Source: AFP

SEARCH warrants issued by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) have resulted in the arrest of nine people, the seizure of luxury cars and property, aircraft, guns and AUD15 million in cash – all said to be part of an alleged conspiracy to defraud the government of AUD165 million (US$123 million) in tax.

In what is believed to be one of the largest white collar crimes in the country’s history, six people were charged by the national police with “conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth” while two men were charged with money laundering offences.

After an eight-month probe under “Operation Elbrus”, the AFP executed 28 search warrants on Wednesday, seizing 18 residential properties, 25 motor vehicles, jewellery, art and cash in Sydney, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands.

Conspirators are accused of hiding diverted taxpayer funds through “lavish lifestyles,” said police.

“The scale of this alleged fraud is unprecedented for the AFP,” said AFP Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close. “Investigations such as this are inherently complex and we still have a lot more work to undertake as we analyse the material that has been seized.”

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The son and daughter of deputy Australian Tax Office (ATO) commissioner Michael Cranston were arrested yesterday in sweeping raids by the across the state of New South Wales, reported ABC News.

“The threat posed by this syndicate to the revenue stream is demonstrated by the fact that $165 million was removed from the tax system, ultimately removing it from possible use by the community,” added Close.

Australian treasurer Scott Morrison, who last week handed down Ausralia’s Federal Budget for 2017-18, stated that: “events today demonstrate is that if you are a crook and you are seeking to defraud the taxpayer, we will find you.” – Reuters

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