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Plutus Payroll founder jailed in Operation Elbrus

Last updated 30 July 2020

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police, Australian Tax Office and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr Simon Anquetil has today been sentenced in the Supreme Court of NSW to seven years and six months in jail for his role as a principal conspirator in a syndicate that is alleged to have defrauded the Commonwealth of more than $105 million over three years.

Mr Anquetil pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the Commonwealth and dealing with the proceeds of crime worth $1,000,000 or more. He is the fifth person to be sentenced in relation to this syndicate and was given a non-parole period of five years.

Operation Elbrus commenced in 2016, led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and assisted by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). It involved pay-as-you-go withholding tax and goods and services tax fraud. These matters are being prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Mr Anquetil was one of the founders of the payroll services company, Plutus Payroll, and one of the architects of the fraudulent scheme.

AFP Commander Investigations Eastern Command, Kirsty Schofield, said Operation Elbrus has involved years of dedicated work for investigators.

“Taxation fraud investigations are inherently complex, and it’s a crime that hurts the community as a whole by diverting money away from the Australian public,” Commander Schofield said.

“These investigations take time and tenacity, and we will not stop in our resolve in seeing these investigations to the end.”

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 CDPP’s Deputy Director Berdj Tchakerian, attributed the positive outcome to staunch collaboration among the agencies that comprise the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce, including the CDPP.

“Investigating and prosecuting tax frauds of this magnitude pose a huge challenge for Commonwealth agencies. The cases are complex and protracted, requiring the dedication of substantial resources over a long period of time,” Mr Tchakerian said. “It is because of the resolve and commitment of our federal prosecutors working closely with investigators that crimes of this significance can be prosecuted successfully.

“This offender’s behaviour was sophisticated, planned and motivated by greed, resulting in a massive fraud against the revenue, which effectively is a fraud also on all other law-abiding taxpayers who do the right thing and lawfully pay their taxes. The CDPP remains steadfast in prosecuting those who engage in this type of offending to the full extent possible.”

The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce is a 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.

Operation Elbrus – sentences imposed to date

Sixteen people were charged as part of Operation Elbrus. Mr Anquetil's sentencing today marks the fifth sentencing outcome for the operation. The other sentencings to date include:

  • 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 two years and three months in June 2020.
  • Devyn Hammond entered a guilty plea on 15 November 2019 for conspiring with others to defraud the Commonwealth and conspiring with others to knowingly deal in the proceeds of crime to the value of $1,000,000 or more. She was sentenced to 4 years jail in July 2020.