June 15, 2024

George Alex, a construction industry leader, is currently facing trial over charges that he was part of an illicit syndicate that swindled the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) of more than $13m for his personal use.

His trial began on Monday at the NSW Supreme Court. He was accompanied by his son, Arthur Alex. Gordon McAndrew, Lindsay Kirschberg, Pasquale Loccisano and Mark Bryers, accused members of the syndicate also appeared in court.

All the accused are denying the charges leveled against them which include creating a loss for the Commonwealth between mid-2018 and mid-2020 in Sydney and the Gold Coast. These men are also denying charges related to knowingly dealing with crime proceeds amounting to $1m or more.

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George Alex is accused of leading a criminal group that defrauded the Australian Taxation Office of $13m. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Bullard.

The prosecution alleges that the accused men withheld over $13.1m that was supposed to have been paid to the ATO as pay as you go (PAYG) withholding tax over a two year period.

Crown Prosecutor, Chris O’Donnell SC stated in his opening address that a “substantial amount” of the purportedly stolen funds was used to benefit the six co-conspirators.

O’Donnell informed the jury that the men came up with and executed a scheme aimed at misappropriating funds that should have been directed to the tax office.

The accused men managed three labour hire companies providing employees for construction businesses in NSW and Queensland, including the industry’s giant, Multiplex.

According to O’Donnell, the accused, rather than paying wages and other due benefits to workers through the hire companies, came up with shell companies as a diversionary tactic.

O’Donnell relayed to the court how these secondary companies accumulated PAYG debts which would be liquidated whenever there was a likelihood of the tax office being notified.

O’Donnell described this as the core strategy used by the conspirators to elude the ATO.

The Crown Prosecutor gave an analogy illustrating the operation as a revolving door.

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George Alex and his son Arthur Alex are set to undergo lengthy court trials. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Bullard.

George Alex, Gordon McAndrew, Pasquale Loccisano, and Lindsay John Kirschberg were cited as the founders of the criminal syndicate in 2018.

Mark Bryers is alleged to have joined the illegal operation a year later with Arthur Alex joining the syndicate in 2020.

Arthur Alex, the younger, faces charges of dealing with assets and money over $1m that he knew to be proceeds of crime during the two-year period.

Nectaria, the wife to George and mother to Arthur, will also testify in the trial.

Justice Desmond Fagan will be overseeing the trial in the highest court of the state in the coming six months.

He appealed to the 15 jurors to scrutinize the evidence meticulously, cautioning them against carrying out independent research into the allegations.

Justice Fagan referred to the infamous Bruce Lehrmann criminal trial, who was indicted for sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2021. He has continually disputed the allegation.

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The jury was reminded about the criminal trial of Bruce Lehrmann, which was discontinued due to juror misconduct. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Monique Harmer.

The Lehrmann trial was prematurely ended in 2022 after a juror conducted independent research and shared their findings with the rest of the jury.

Justice Fagan warned that a similar course of action would be “disastrous” for the present trial–a caution issued particularly to the jury composed of 11 men and four women.

The jury is set to listen to 130 hours of conversations among the six accused fraudsters captured through wiretaps and strategically positioned listening devices.

These devices were installed in early 2019 after the Australian Federal Police secured a warrant during their countrywide probe into the suspected payroll fraud.

A year and a half later, all six men accused of defrauding millions were arrested and officially charged.