Operation Protego is an ATO-led investigation into large-scale GST fraud that was promoted particularly on social media. The attempted fraud involves an individual:
- inventing a fake business
- lodging a fraudulent Australian business number (ABN) application, and
- submitting fictitious business activity statements (BAS) to attempt to gain a false GST refund.
In May 2022 we issued warnings to the community to be on the lookout for fraud schemes being promoted through social media and other channels and advised those who were involved to come forward.
The most serious offenders of financial crime are referred to the ATO-led Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT), including individuals involved in Operation Protego. The SFCT is taking firm action against individuals, facilitators and promoters suspected of defrauding the community by inventing fake businesses to claim false GST refunds.
You need to check the facts – nobody is giving money away for free or offering loans that don’t need to be paid back. Simply speaking, if you don’t operate a business, you don’t need an ABN, and you shouldn’t lodge a BAS. This is fraud.
For those who may be tempted by the promise of big gains, the ATO has sophisticated risk models and works with banks, law enforcement agencies and other organisations to share information and detect fraud. It also has access to intelligence through community tip offs, and other information sources. The SFCT brings together the knowledge, resources and experience of relevant law enforcement and regulatory agencies to identify and address the most serious and complex forms of financial crime.
22 January 2024 – Arec Akol sentenced to 3 months jail
Arec Akol has been sentenced to 3 months jail, released on a security of $5,000 and good behaviour for a year. She was charged with one count of obtaining financial advantage by deception.
Ms Akol had registered an ABN for a cleaning business which didn’t exist. 7 fraudulent BAS were then lodged between 1 April 2021 and 28 February 2022.
In total, Ms Akol claimed a GST refund of $69,461 which she was not entitled to. She was ordered to repay this amount in full.
12 January 2024 – Adam Mitchell sentenced to a community corrections order of 15 months
Adam Mitchell was sentenced to a community corrections order of 15 months after being charged with one offence of dealing in money or property that was the proceeds of crime worth $10,000 or more.
Mr Mitchell had registered an ABN in 2017 and registered for GST reporting on 8 April 2022. On 22 April 2022, he lodged a fraudulent BAS claiming a GST refund of $18,000.
In addition to the community corrections order, Mr Mitchell was ordered to repay the Commonwealth the full amount he had fraudulently claimed.
17 November 2023 – Wayne Garrett sentenced to 3 years and 4 months jail
Wayne Garrett was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in jail with a non-parole period of 1 year and 9 months and ordered to repay $180,095 for GST fraud. He was charged with 1 count of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, 1 count of attempting to obtain a financial advantage by deception and 1 count of joint commission with a person of interest.
Mr Garrett received $180,095 in GST refunds that he was not entitled to. He also attempted to obtain a further $50,644.
23 October 2023 – Rachel Saville sentenced to 1 year and 8 months jail
Rachel Saville was sentenced to 1 year and 8 months jail after being charged with 4 counts of obtaining benefit by deception.
Ms Saville reactivated an Australian Business Number (ABN) for a jewellery and silver manufacturing business on 7 February 2022. Between 21 February 2022 and 26 July 2023, she lodged 63 fraudulent Business Activity Statements (BAS) obtaining $73,650 that she was not entitled to.
Ms Saville also attempted to claim a further $192,983 in fraudulent GST refunds.
For more information see Wollongong woman jailed for GST fraud.
30 August 2023 – Linden Phillips sentenced to 7 and a half years jail
Linden Phillips was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison with a non-parole period of 5 years. He was changed with obtaining financial advantage by deception, attempt to obtain financial advantage by deception, and deal with the proceeds of crime.
Mr Phillips lodged false business activity statements which saw him fraudulently receive more than $830,000.
For more information see Mildura man jailed for 7 years for GST fraud
29 August 2023 – Justin McCormick sentenced to 2 years jail
Justin McCormick was sentenced to 2 years jail with a 12-month non-parole period and ordered to repay almost $110,000 of funds fraudulently obtained. He was charged with 5 offences of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception from the Commissioner of Taxation.
Mr McCormick had an ABN which had been registered between 28 March 2009 and 13 February 2015. He then re-registered this ABN on 11 February 2022 with the intent to lodge business activity statements for a business that did not exist and to claim GST on purchases that were never made.
As a result of the false information reported in each BAS, McCormick obtained $109,278 in GST refunds, an amount to which he was not entitled.
For more information see Perth man jailed as Protego enforcement action continues