A man described as a “lackey” by his barrister has been sentenced to more than three years’ jail for dealing in proceeds of crime in connection with an investigation into Plutus Payroll, the IT industry-focused payroll company at the centre of a landmark fraud case.
Aaron Paul was sentenced on 21 February to three years and four months’ jail for dealing in proceeds of crime in excess of $200,000 in connection with Operation Elbrus, an investigation into a large scale and organised tax fraud conspiracy revolving around Plutus Payroll.
The outsourced payroll management service company left hundreds of IT contractors around the country without wages for weeks after its accounts were frozen by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) in late April 2017.
The company was named by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in May 2017 as allegedly being run by several members of a syndicate alleged to be responsible for a $165 million tax fraud against the Australian Government.
At the centre of the investigation was a large scale and organised tax fraud conspiracy, which is alleged to involve a group that used payroll services companies to divert pay-as-you-go withholding tax and goods and services tax owed to the ATO.
Following the initial investigation, the Supreme Court of NSW subsequently ordered that the heavily IT industry-focused payroll outsourcing firm be wound up and liquidated.
The events impacted many IT contractors and other workers at the time, with the ATO implementing a range of support measures to ensure that contractors who were on the payroll company’s books had clarity in relation to their circumstances.
According to a statement by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Paul pleaded guilty to dealing with money and property associated with proceeds of crime between 2016 and 2017. The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
Paul’s conviction marks the second resolution under Operation Elbrus, which was uncovered through a joint ATO and AFP investigation in May 2017, is a key focus of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce.
Joshua Kitson, the former general manager of Plutus Payroll, who pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth in August last year was sentenced to four years and six months’ jail, with a non-parole period of three years.
Paul, meanwhile, was last year reportedly described by his barrister, Greg James, as “a lackey who made it up to a minor executive role,” according to The Australian Financial Review.
Altogether, fourteen individuals have been charged as part of the operation.