June 25, 2024

The construction tycoon, George Alex, is indicted for orchestrating a massive fraudulent ring. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Bullard.

George Alex stands accused in his trial on charges that he participated in an illicit organization, defrauding the Australian Tax Office (ATO) of more than $13m, from which he profited.

He appeared before the NSW Supreme Court on Monday, accompanied by his son, Arthur Alex, and alleged collaborators in the syndicate: Gordon McAndrew, Lindsay Kirschberg, Pasquale Loccisano, and Mark Bryers.

The six defendants all maintain their innocence against charges of conspiring to inflict financial harm to the Commonwealth between mid-2018 and mid-2020 across Sydney and the Gold Coast.

The suspects also reject accusations of conspiring to transact with $1m or more, fully aware that the funds were proceeds from illegal activities.

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George Alex is charged with running a fraudulent network resulting in the Australian Taxation Office losing $13m. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Bullard.

The prosecution asserts that the defendants withheld more than $13.1m that should have been remitted to the ATO in the form of pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding tax over two years.

In his introductory statement, Crown prosecutor Chris O’Donnell SC alleged that a considerable portion of the illicitly obtained funds were put to the use by the six conspirators.

O’Donnell contended that the defendants devised and executed a plan to misdirect funds that were supposed to be remitted to the tax office.

According to O’Donnell, the men operated three labour-hire firms that recruited employees for construction companies in NSW and Queensland, among them, the renowned industry heavyweight, Multiplex.

O’Donnell claimed that, rather than disbursing wages and entitlements through these labour hire companies, the alleged co-conspirators established shell companies to function as a “protective cover”.

The shell companies would cumulate PAYG debts and then be intentionally dissolved to evade the scrutiny of the tax office, O’Donnell explained.

According to the Crown Prosecutor, this cycle of setting up and dissolving companies was the main tactic the co-conspirators employed to keep the ATO at bay.

“Essentially, it was a perpetual cycle,” he asserted.

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George Alex and his son, Arthur Alex, face a protracted trial in the upper echelons of the state’s judiciary system. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Simon Bullard.

The jury was informed that George Alex, in association with Gordon McAndrew, Pasquale Loccisano, and Lindsay John Kirschberg, established the illicit syndicate in 2018.

Mark Bryers allegedly became a member of the syndicate a year later, followed by Arthur Alex in 2020.

Arthur Alex also faces charges of dealing with over $1m in money and assets, knowing they were the proceeds of criminal activities, during the same two-year span.

Adding to the familial intrigue of the trial is the fact that George Alex’s wife, Nectaria, will be summoned to testify.

Justice Desmond Fagan will preside over this half-a-year trial in the uppermost court of the state.

He cautioned the 15-strong jury to pay close attention to the evidence presented and sternly reminded them that they are under strict orders not to conduct their own investigations into the allegations at hand.

Justice Fagan alluded to the infamous trial of Bruce Lehrmann, who faced charges in 2021 for sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins in the Parliament House. Lehrmann has consistently pleaded not guilty.

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The jury was presented with the example of the Lehrmann case, which was prematurely terminated due to juror misconduct. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Monique Harmer

The Lehrmann trial was halted in 2022 when a juror conducted independent research and shared their discoveries with other jurors.

The presiding Justice warned the 11 male and 4 female jurors that a repeat of such an occurrence in this trial would be calamitous.

The jury will have to discern the details of 130 hours of conversations among the six accused fraudsters, captured either during phone tapping or through carefully positioned eavesdropping devices.

The Australian Federal Police planted these devices in January 2019 after they procured a warrant as part of their nationwide investigation into the alleged payroll fraud.

Eighteen months later, the police apprehended and charged all six accused individuals for defrauding millions.