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Fourth person jailed for Operation Elbrus

Last updated 9 July 2020

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police and Australian Taxation Office.

Devyn Hammond has today been sentenced in the Supreme Court of NSW to 4 years jail for her role in a syndicate that is alleged to have defrauded the Commonwealth of more than $105 million over three years.

Ms Hammond pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth and conspiring to deal with proceeds of crime in excess of $1 million. She is the fourth person to be sentenced for their role in this syndicate and was given a non-parole period of 2 years and 6 months.

Operation Elbrus was a 2017 investigation led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), with significant assistance from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), into a large-scale and organised tax fraud conspiracy. The investigation revealed a group of people that used payroll services companies to divert pay-as-you-go withholding tax and goods and services tax owed to the ATO.

Sixteen people were charged as part of Operation Elbrus. Ms Hammond’s sentencing today marks the fourth sentencing outcome for the operation. The other three sentencings were:

  • Joshua Kitson, the former general manager of Plutus Payroll, entered a guilty plea to conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth in November 2018 and was sentenced to four years and six months’ jail in August 2019, with a non-parole period of three years.
  • Aaron Paul entered a guilty plea in June 2019 for dealing in proceeds of crime in excess of $200,000. He was sentenced to jail for three years in February 2020.
  • Paul O’Leary entered a guilty plea on 20 August 2019 for negligently dealing in proceeds of crime in excess of $1,000,000. He was sentenced to jail for 2 years and 3 months in June 2020.

AFP Commander Investigations Eastern Command, Kirsty Schofield, said investigating complex fraud matters requires dedication, tenacity and an ongoing commitment from all involved.

“Tax fraud takes money away from essential community services and leaves everyday taxpayers to pick up the bill,” Commander Schofield said. “It’s not a victimless crime – it impacts every single Australian who wants to do the right thing.”

“The fourth sentencing is another step forward for Operation Elbrus investigators. Their commitment to this matter is stretching into its fourth year, but there is still a great deal of work to go in support of the remaining matters before the courts.”

Chief of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce Will Day welcomed the sentence handed down today.

“These outcomes show the commitment of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce in bringing the most serious offenders of financial crime to account,” Mr Day said.

“This was part of an elaborate and complicated scheme, but our sophisticated approach, combining intelligence and specialist powers of taskforce agencies, means tax criminals will come unstuck.

“Tax crime affects everyone. This particular fraud has ripped off innocent creditors and deprived the public of valuable funds that could otherwise be used to fund essential services,” Mr Day said.

The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce is an ATO-led joint agency taskforce that 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.

The matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.