Taxman spies on the rich and famous : Unauthorized access…


Taxman spies on the rich and famous
UNAUTHORISED access to the tax files and personal information of anyone from movie stars to footballers and ex-wives of Australian Taxation Office employees are believed to be among a raft of recent malpractice incidents by staff at the ATO.

Cases of abuse of power among tax office staff – including fraud and snooping – have doubled in the past two years, the ATO’s own statistics reveal.

The body’s documents showed there were 389 allegations of “fraud or serious misconduct by our staff”, including unauthorised snooping, in the year to June 2011. Of these cases, 50 were found to have been substantiated. By comparison, two years earlier there were 209 allegations, with 24 cases substantiated.

The alarming figures have led to calls for greater checks on ATO staff, whose powers to delve into the personal affairs of Australians are unmatched even by the police.

An ATO spokesperson confirmed that in the year to June 2011, the body referred three staff to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for adjudication on whether criminal charges should be laid. A further six staff were sacked during the year on related matters, and eight resigned.

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ATO accused of systemic abuse of power – An abusive sub-culture?

See :



See also :

which was shown on ABC’s 7:30 report..

ATO accused of systemic abuse of power
By Peta Carlyon

Updated April 10, 2012 15:11:11

The Australian Tax Office has been accused of abusing its power and squandering taxpayers’ money on futile court cases designed simply to chase revenue rather than enforce the law.

The claims have been made by a group of ATO staff who raised a raft of concerns about the tactics used by the ATO in its crackdown on so-called high wealth individuals.

The whistleblowers say that instead of acting on their complaints, the ATO turned its sights on them.

Serene Teffaha had been at the ATO for eight years when the ATO bolstered its crackdown on so-called high wealth individuals or businesses worth between $100 million and $250 million a year.

Her job was to assess taxpayer objections to the scheme, but it was not long before alarm bells sounded.

“We observed that things like procedural fairness, natural justice, were not being appropriately delivered. Furthermore, we felt that our area wasn’t being appropriately resourced to deal with these very complicated objections,” she said.

At the time, the ATO was pursuing scores of cases through the scheme worth an estimated $490 million. Ms Teffaha said cases would often be “driven through” simply to achieve revenue targets, rather than assessing cases of highest risk to the ATO.

Ms Teffaha raised her concerns with her employers, but she says they were ignored. Eventually, she and five colleagues made a complaint under federal whistleblower protection laws.

The complaint, obtained by the ABC, claimed a lack of planning in dealing with taxpayer objections; inadequate resourcing and inexperienced staff; an attitude that encouraged shortcuts and a failure to properly respond to taxpayer queries about the lawfulness of the cases against them.

But in a writ lodged in the Federal Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Ms Teffaha alleges that after the whistleblower complaint was lodged, the ATO turned on her.
False accusations

Ms Teffaha claims she was singled out from her colleagues and falsely accused of being a bully with suicidal tendencies. She says private detectives were hired to investigate her and her future job prospects were threatened.

“It’s been completely paralysing for me because of the fact that they’re able to systematically wage these types of behaviours and actions against me and wage these kinds of actions against me with no appropriate accountability for their behaviour,” she said.

“I felt that I’d been forced to actually attempt to make these individuals, these senior officials within the ATO, accountable through actually going to court.

“When the ATO loses, we’ve actually expended taxpayer funds throughout this process to litigate these matters, but we ultimately lose.”

The ATO declined to be interviewed on camera about Ms Teffaha’s claims and said it cannot comment on individual employee matters or circumstances, particularly those before the courts.

The concerns within the complaint, including the need for greater regulation of the ATO, are mirrored in a public submission to the tax forum by Australia’s inspector-general of taxation, Ali Noroozi.

Mr Noroozi has written an extensive review of the high wealth individuals scheme. He is forbidden from detailing the review’s contents until the Federal Government chooses to release it, but he will say the ATO has been conspicuously unsuccessful in the higher courts.

“The Tax Office has really not won many cases since around the middle of 2008 and I think they have not really won any case in the High Court involving a taxpayer from around the middle of 2008,” he said.

“I think it’s entirely appropriate that the Tax Office has a litigation program. What I’m saying is that it needs to be appropriately managed so that really those cases that are necessary to be litigated and only those end up in the courts.”

‘They’ve come up with nothing’
Targeting high wealth individuals and businesses is not a new approach for the ATO. It follows the highly publicised Operation Wickenby.

Backed by the Australian Federal Police, that project was geared to go after some big fish, including actor Paul Hogan, who has been fighting the ATO for years.

The ATO hails Wickenby a success, but figures show out of almost 3,000 audits and reviews of taxpayers, only 22 taxpayers have been convicted.

One of Wickenby’s targets was Gold Coast-based entrepreneur Ron Pattenden. He was first tapped on the shoulder for an ATO audit in 2004 after restructuring his insurance underwriting company and shifting it to Vanuatu on the advice of his accountant.

Vanuatu is one of several tax havens or hot spots targeted by the ATO and recent figures suggest its crackdown has worked. The flow of funds from Australia to Vanuatu has halved in the past five financial years.

Even so, Mr Pattenden says he was not prepared for the tax bill that came after being audited. After an eight-year legal battle the Federal Court found Mr Pattenden had paid his taxes and had no case to answer.

The ATO’s case against him was thrown out, but he says he is still out of pocket.

“They’ve looked at every aspect of my financial dealings and the company dealings and they’ve come up with nothing,” he said.

“They asserted $6 million, and then very quickly that $6 million, with their penalties and interest, went up by about $1 million a minute to just under $15 million.

“I was forced to pay $1.8 million in tax that I don’t owe and that would’ve been 3.5 years ago, so I’m still paying interest on that money I loaned from the bank to be able to pay that. So, financially, probably close to $4 million out of my wallet at the moment.”
Travel ban

The ATO estimates more than $2.3 billion was owed in tax from high wealth individuals or companies between 2007 and 2011. Of that, $820 million has been collected while more than $1.5 billion is at issue.

ATO figures show 202 cases were heard in the Federal Court in the last financial year. It would not comment on Mr Pattenden’s case either, citing privacy concerns.

But Mr Pattenden wants the story of his court battles told. Like the highly-publicised Paul Hogan case, he was hit with an ATO travel ban under operation Wickenby which stopped him leaving the country.

Mr Pattenden fought the travel ban and won. Despite that, two days later he was detained at Brisbane Airport by Federal Police on the orders of the ATO as he was preparing to return home to New Zealand.

“Two very burly federal police officers came along and told me that the Tax Office had issued a second travel ban.

“It’s a very heart-wrenching ordeal because it’s just like the curtain’s come down.

“They are allowed to take any amount of time that they wish to take to wear down somebody from the public like me. Years and years and years, they can take and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to defend yourself.”

The second ban was eventually found to be unlawful and resulted in Federal Court Justice John Logan warning he could impose a prison term on the tax officials involved.

Ms Teffaha has written to the Federal Government calling for a review of the ATO’s governance and accountability, but is yet to receive a response.

Topics: tax, government-and-politics, courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

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School with one pupil : The $1.1 million student

By: Stuart Rintoul
FOR several weeks this year, a Year 8 boy at the Ballerrt Mooroop College, in Melbourne’s north, was the $1.1 million student.

FOR several weeks this year, a Year 8 boy attending the Ballerrt Mooroop College, in Melbourne’s north, was the $1.1 million student.

That was the annual operating budget for the Aboriginal “pathways” school and the boy was the school’s only student.

Ballerrt Mooroop has now been de-staffed and its closure may signal the end of Victoria’s experiment with Aboriginal schools, which have had low enrolments and poor academic outcomes.

Ballerrt Mooroop began as a Koorie Open Door Education school in 1995. In 1997, the Glenroy school had 86 students. By 2009, there were 28, costing taxpayers $95,000 a student, or nine times the state average. Attendance was 66 per cent.

Last year, there were 11 students, with 64 per cent attendance, being taught by eight teachers. The school had recurrent income of $1.1m.

Forced to share its grounds with a special school for disabled students, Ballerrt Mooroop began this year with two students, which quickly became one. After several weeks, the sole remaining student was removed to another school.

According to Aboriginal activist Barbara Williams, the boy “was happy with the school and when he was told it was closing, he was crying his heart out”.

But the Victorian Education Department says Aboriginal people have voted with their feet, enrolling their children in mainstream schools. There are almost 1200 indigenous students in Melbourne’s north.

“Since we wound up with one student, we couldn’t justify spending $1.1m to keep it going,” regional director Wayne Craig told The Australian.

“The community has voted with its feet in a lot of ways. When you wind up with a school with no kids in it, I guess basically the decision is made for you.”

Over the past 17 years, Victoria’s four Aboriginal campuses, in Mildura, Swan Hill, Morwell and Glenroy, have been tried as Prep-Year 10 (KODE), Prep-Year 12 (Victorian College of Koorie Education) and Year 7-10 (Pathways), with the goal eventually of reconnecting disengaged Aboriginal students with mainstream education, or training.

In 2007, respected Aboriginal educator Chris Sarra reported they had “failed dramatically” to boost Aboriginal education and had become a dumping ground for difficult Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

Last year, the state’s Auditor-General, Des Pearson, said the Education Department could not demonstrate whether they were working.

Ms Williams said students had been discouraged from attending the Glenroy school, while fellow activist Gary Murray said Ballerrt Mooroop had been allowed to become a “poor black school that takes in naughty black kids”.

Mr Murray, who attended Glenroy High School, said a more creative strategy, aimed at strong academic results and incorporating sports and performing arts academies, could have succeeded.

He said Aboriginal activists would now fight for the Glenroy site. “We can’t fight for the kids, because they’re not there,” he said.

“If the Greeks can have their schools and the Jews can have their schools and the Muslims can have their schools and the rich kids can have their schools and the disabled kids can have theirs, why can’t we?” he said.

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Ex-officer ‘had 23kg of ecstasy’
Ex-officer ‘had 23kg of ecstasy’

September 18, 2011
A former police officer has been arrested and charged with supplying 23 kilograms of ecstasy tablets.

Mark Andrew Novotny, 39, was picked up by officers from the Organised Crime (Targeting) Squad on September 1 and appeared in Hornsby Local Court the following day.

A police statement tendered in court said Mr Novotny was now a private investigator living in Queensland. The Sun-Herald has learnt he came to the notice of NSW police some years ago when he was named in an intelligence report as an associate of a notorious Kings Cross identity.
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The statement said he had recently ”been [the] subject of physical surveillance making a number of interstate trips between Queensland and New South Wales”.

It revealed that Mr Novotny was under surveillance when he arrived in Sydney from Coolangatta on the morning of September 1.

It said he had hired a red Holden Commodore and drove straight to the car park of a Parramatta hotel.

”The accused took physical possession of two cardboard boxes from an unidentified person,” the statement said.

He then allegedly put the boxes in the boot and drove to the car park of a liquor store store in Pennant Hills, where he was stopped by police who discovered the boxes.

”Inside each of the two cardboard boxes were five resealable plastic bags containing significant quantities of pink tablets, 10 bags in total.”

After he was taken to Hornsby police station, Mr Novotny declined to be interviewed.

Police said the 10 bags weighed 2.3 kilograms each and that the tablets, believed to be ecstasy, were now being analysed.

Mr Novotny was refused bail.

Neil Mercer

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Qantas ‘breached’ security

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Burnt out on the beat in Kings Cross

Burnt out on the beat in Kings Cross

August 30, 2010
They cavorted with crims to expose corrupt cops, then they were cut adrift. Michael Duffy reports.

If you’d been in the back streets of Kings Cross in the late ’90s you might have seen Joe. He was the huge guy of Lebanese background, the one getting out of the Porsche with his hair in braids, wearing a white pinstripe suit and $20,000 of gold jewellery, and smoking a Cuban cigar. If you’d followed him and the attractive blonde woman on his arm down Kellett Street, you would have been led into the company of drug dealers and corrupt police.

Some of that company ended up in prison thanks to Joe, because he was an undercover cop. Joe was good at his job; as it turned out, too good. Thanks to poor supervision by his superior officers and a few bad decisions on his part, the job destroyed his health and, for a period, his mental equilibrium.

This week I met Joe, dressed in a white and green tracksuit and thongs. Years of using illegal steroids to bulk up so he could fit the role of a drug dealer and standover man destroyed his kidneys, and for much of the past few years he has been on dialysis. In March he got a new kidney but his body has started to reject it. He is desperately ill and his wife, whom we will call Jessie and who was the woman with him in Kings Cross, looked desperately concerned. They want the world to know how their situation has been caused by their shabby treatment from the NSW Police Force.

Joe’s training as an undercover officer in 1995 was a 10-day course at the police academy run by the experienced officer Mick Drury.

“It taught us a lot about drugs,” Joe says, “which was good because I’d never come across drugs before.” But he was to learn most of his skills on the job. “Every time I met with a crook I would take one aspect from him to help build my undercover character. For instance, one crook I dealt with would always finish a meeting by saying, ‘Are you happy? If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.’ I started using that on all my jobs, it became part of my undercover character.”

Joe’s early work involved infiltrating criminal networks, but in October 1997 he was hand-picked to join the Special Crime and Internal Affairs command. His new target would be corrupt police. He was the only undercover officer there until he was joined by Jessie, who was motivated to expose corrupt cops because of some bad dealings with police in the past.

Joe and Jessie did important work collecting information on certain Sydney police and the criminals they associated with. Undercover cops are not allowed to take illicit drugs, which presented difficulties Joe handled in various ways. One prominent Sydney drug dealer, Craig Haeusler, insisted he join him in a toilet to snort some powder. “Luckily I had long hair,” says Joe. “I leaned over and pretended I’d snorted it, then wiped it off [the top of the cistern].”

Joe fell in love with his new role and worked out in gyms frequented by crooks and started taking steroids. He says his bosses never commented on his weight increase from 75 to 145 kilos.

He changed his appearance further, adding earrings and tattoos, and spending $400 every six weeks having his hair braided. He was using all his salary on these things. (On one occasion the deputy commissioner, Ken Moroney, saw him with all his jewellery and said, “I hope we haven’t been paying for that.” Joe replied, “No sir.”) His behaviour changed, too, and he moved away from Islam and started smoking and drinking. “I think I got caught up in it,” he says, “I envied these people.”

Joe was still living in his family home, but only his parents could be told what he was doing. As far as everyone else knew, he was a cop living way beyond his means, wearing expensive jewellery and driving sports cars, and mixing with criminals. This put enormous pressure on his family and had tragic consequences for his younger brother, who learnt from friends that Joe was a big man up in the Cross. He was influenced by this and committed armed robbery and went to jail, something Joe deeply regrets.

Joe and Jessie’s most successful operation, called Craven, took place in Queensland. It led to the conviction of a number of corrupt police, including one who’d done undercover work himself.

The pressure on Joe and Jessie mounted. Joe learnt a $100,000 contract had been taken out on his life. Experts think two years is the maximum anyone should work undercover. Joe says he was induced to stay for five by unkept promises of promotion. The pair received almost no psychological testing, despite the well-established fact people in their line of work need continual monitoring by experts. They had no colleagues they could talk with because they were the only people in their unit, apart from supervisors.

In 2000 Joe’s physical and mental health began to give way. He and Jessie – they had recently become a couple – had a series of disputes with the police that ended with them leaving and an out-of-court settlement. The complicated details of this drawn-out affair are described in a new book by Clive Small and Tom Gilling, Betrayed (Allen & Unwin).

Jessie retrained as a school teacher, and Joe returned to religion. The couple have moved far from the parts of Sydney where they used to live and avoid places where criminals are likely to be found. But still Joe scans the faces of people around him when he goes out. Their car has tinted windows so they can’t be recognised.

Looking back, Joe says, “I went into the police to make a difference. But the most satisfying work I did was when I was in uniform, doing beat policing and talking in schools. I hope I helped one or two people.” Does he think locking up some drug dealers made a difference? “No. They say there’s a war on drugs but there’s no such thing. The police take 200 kilos off the street and say they’ve made a big dent, but the next day you can buy drugs for the same price. It makes no difference. For every importation they catch, five more get in.”

Jessie is more positive about their experience. “We would have made a difference in terms of police corruption,” she says. “It’s rare for undercover police to work on police successfully. I think that would have warned a few off.”

Joe shrugs his shoulders, unconvinced.

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Bikies and triads in waterfront drug conspiracy

Bikies and triads in waterfront drug conspiracy

Nick McKenzie
August 30, 2010

ONE of the nation’s biggest investigations into organised crime has exposed an international drug importation syndicate with links to the Comanchero bikie gang, Chinese triads and corrupt Australian officials.

Operation Hoffman, a landmark multi-agency investigation led by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), has also revealed the deep links between drug importers and rogue Australian maritime workers.

A joint investigation by the Herald and ABC TV’s Four Corners into organised crime can also reveal that:

NSW Police have identified a group of drug-importing Sydney port workers with government maritime security guards who have been active since 2004.

In Victoria, authorities have uncovered links between corrupt Melbourne port workers, the Hells Angels and prominent Italian criminals.

Law enforcement agencies in NSW recently updated a list of 150 organised crime organisations that need targeting.

The two-year Operation Hoffman has found multimillion-dollar crime syndicates are operating like multinational enterprises, evading police by drawing on local and overseas resources and the latest technology.

It has led to big ecstasy, heroin and crystal methamphetamine drug busts across Australia, the biggest drug bust in Tonga and the discovery of a bikie armoury, including automatic weapons and imitation police equipment, in May last year. Those arrested include alleged drug runners with links to the Chinese triads and the Perth president of the Comanchero, Steven Milenkovski.

One of Hoffman’s key targets is Hakan Ayik,32, from Sydney, who is understood to have been the local manager of an international drug syndicate with strong links to the triads and which used domestic criminal networks, including bikie gangs, as distributors and to provide muscle.

NSW Police intelligence describes Ayik as a ”very serious money-maker” who ”generates a lot of money” for the Comanchero and has multiple links to waterfront workers.

Operation Hoffman ended this month after NSW Police issued an arrest warrant for Ayik for drug trafficking. It is believed he is on the run.

The crime syndicate Hoffman targeted also has links to an allegedly corrupt NSW Police analyst, Terry Gregoriou, who, as the Herald revealed on Saturday, was charged in December for allegedly leaking police files to the Comanchero.

The syndicate has also cultivated contacts with figures with access to the NSW prison system, including a serving prison officer, to pass money and messages to jailed crime figures.

Hoffman’s success lies in the co-operative efforts of traditionally mistrustful state and federal policing agencies, including the NSW Police, the NSW Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the anti-money laundering agency Austrac.

But a senior law enforcement insider has revealed that despite its success, inadequate resourcing meant Operation Hoffman was unable to reach its potential. He said the criminal network it targeted would ”reform very, very quickly”. The insider said the ACC needed far more investigators to target the movement of illicit funds overseas, a methodology crucial to Operation Hoffman.

The consensus among senior police is that the ACC is under-resourced given the size and reach of well-resourced underworld figures.

The federal Labor senator Steve Hutchins, who is briefed by senior police as chairman of the ACC parliamentary committee, said that given that big drug seizures did not affect the supply or price of drugs, Australia was clearly not winning the war against drug trafficking.

Simon Overland, the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, said that data supported the view that policing agencies were making only ”a small number of seizures in the total volume of drugs that come across the barrier”.

This view is backed by a former assistant commissioner of the NSW Police, Clive Small, and the former detective inspector who headed Victoria’s Purana taskforce, Jim O’Brien.

“You’d have to be kidding yourself if you thought you were getting any more than probably 10 or 15 per cent off the street,” said Mr O’Brien.

Senator Hutchins called for reforms to combat organised crime on the waterfront. “The law enforcement agencies have been exposing what’s been going on … it’s whether or not we as politicians are prepared to give them the weapons … they need to combat it.”

A state and federal policing taskforce to combat organised crime on the wharves will become fully operational in the next fortnight after delays due to inter-agency negotiations.

The chief executive of the Australian Crime Commission, John Lawler, has championed better co-operation among agencies.

Missing . . . Hakan Ayik with a lingerie-clad companion.Missing . . . Hakan Ayik with a lingerie-clad companion.

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