High-end real estate developer from Manly, Benjamin Ensor, was sentenced to six years in prison after an ATO investigation found he caused a loss of $3.4 million to the Commonwealth through GST fraud.
Mr Ensor was sentenced in the NSW District Court to six years in prison. He was also ordered to pay to the tune of more than $1.8 million in compensation.
His sentence was a result of an ATO investigation where they discovered he had structured his companies to fraudulently obtain GST credits. Mr Ensor also failed to report his real estate sales to avoid paying GST, resulting in a loss of $3.4 million to the Commonwealth.
Over 2008 to 2011, Mr Ensor lodged false BAS statements on behalf of nine companies of which he ended up being the sole director. He used the money he had fraudulently acquited to fund a lavish lifestyle. Some of his purchases included a marina at Lake Macquarie, a catamaran, and a unit to live in.
The money was also used to meet expenses incurred throughout the course of developing five beachfront high-end real estates in Manly.
Mr Ensor described his companies’ expenditure was more than $24 million and declared more than $2.2 million in GST refunds. He likewise failed to report the sales of his beachfront real estate in Manly on which he should have paid GST of more than $1.5 million.
In his GST refund claims, Mr Ensor created false invoices that showed associated companies supplied project management services, and produced fraudulent invoices for the purchase of high-priced excavators, trailers, trucks, and catamarans.
ATO assistant commissioner, Aislinn Walwyn, stated the conviction represented the agency’s position against illegal phoenix activity and tax criminal activities.
“This case exhibits classic illegal phoenix behaviour. Companies were deliberately liquidated to avoid paying creditors and taxes. New companies continued operating the same or a similar business with the same ownership,” Ms Walwyn remarked.
“Illegal phoenix activity is a serious threat to the integrity of the tax and superannuation systems and costs the community billions of dollars every year.
“As part of the multi-agency Phoenix Taskforce, the ATO is committed to taking strong action against illegal phoenix activity to protect all Australians.”
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This article first appeared on Accounts Daily.