ATO chief's 'resounding defence' of fallen public servant
AUSTRALIA'S chief tax man has launched a resounding defence of his fallen deputy Michael Cranston, saying alleged fraud kingpin Adam Cranston "ruined" his father's career.
Australian Taxation Office Commissioner Chris Jordan told the National Press Club in Canberra today he was proud of Operation Elbrus, which investigated the the $144 million alleged Plutus Payroll fraud scheme and rocked his department.
Adam and his sister, Lauren Cranston, were arrested in Australian Federal Police raids in May and charged with defrauding the Commonwealth.
Cranston Snr was charged for trying to use his influence and position to help his son as the alleged scam began to fail.
Mr Jordan said the joint AFP-ATO probe into Plutus was excellent investigative work, but had left the ATO "dismayed".
Mr Jordan said the charges against Adam Cranston had been difficult to comprehend.
"The charges against Michael Cranston too have been equally hard to believed and at the ATO we are dismayed at the events that have unfolded in this regard.
"The connection with and alleged actions because of his son have ruined his career and his reputation and have compromised our standing and raised questions about the integrity of others within the ATO."
Two of assistant commissioners under Cranston Snr have been stood down pending an internal investigation.
But Mr Jordan wanted to stress that Cranston Snr, who led a decorated career of more than 35 years at the ATO, had not been charged with fraud.
He also sought to dispel beliefs that Cranston Snr may have directly accessed off-limits tax records for his son.
"Findings to date show Michael Cranston is not suspected of being involved in the syndicate or defrauding the Commonwealth," Mr Jordan said.
"Evidence to date shows that at no time did Michael Cranston directly access taxpayer data, systems or the audit cases under this investigation."
"There is no evidence of actual intervention or influence on the audit cases or of money being refunded or of the tax liability being changed."
He said when Cranston Jnr allegedly reached out to his father for help in February, as the AFP and ATO was issuing garnishee orders on the web of suspicious accounts and companies, it was "too late".
He said as soon as the ATO established a "family link" to the Plutus Payroll, "safeguards" were deployed internally to save the integrity of Operation Elbrus.