Monthly Archives: October 2019

Beauty queen used as unwitting bait by alleged tax scammers

It was a meet and greet with a glamorous former Miss World contestant as unwitting bait.

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The upmarket event at the Hilton Hotel was to lure clients to a payroll company now at the centre of one of the biggest white collar fraud investigations in Australian history.

It was February 2015 and St Aloysius’ College old boy Simon Anquetil was offering guests the chance to “join me for a selfie” with the “stunning” Erin Holland, who took out the Miss World Australia title in 2013.

The then 31-year-old businessman was one of the brains behind Plutus Payroll, a company touted as “Australia’s First Zero-Fee Payroll Service”.

Guests at the glitzy event were told they could “earn money simply by switching to a free payroll service”.

Mr Anquetil, 34, has now been named as one of seven alleged co-conspirators behind a $165 million tax fraud syndicate involving Plutus Payroll, the company he once chaired. The alleged scam started in June 2016, according to court documents.

But it is another high-profile member of the alleged syndicate whose family connections have made him the face of Operation Elbrus, the eight-month Australian Federal Police investigation into the alleged racket.

Adam Cranston, one of the alleged masterminds of the scam, is the big-spending son of ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston.

The 30-year-old was granted bail on Thursday after being charged with conspiring to cause loss.

His younger sister Lauren, 24, was also charged over the scheme.

Allegedly working alongside the Cranston siblings was Jason “Jay” Onley, a Scots College old boy and former Nine Network sports commentator who lists one of his career highlights as calling the Olympic gold medal-winning performance of Australian snowboarder Torah Bright in 2010.

The Sydney-based Plutus Payroll was contracted by businesses to manage their employees’ wages and salaries, including making PAYG contributions to the Tax Office.

But the AFP alleges the company was skimming off a percentage of the funds that should have been paid to the ATO.

The proceeds were allegedly used by members of the syndicate to fund their lavish lifestyles, including luxury cars, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

It now appears a bitter falling-out between the participants may have brought the scheme undone.

Adding to the drama is the alleged involvement of veteran Sydney journalist Steve Barrett, a former 60 Minutes producer, in an attempt to blackmail the syndicate along with a disaffected member of the group, Daniel Rostankovski.

Mr Rostankovski allegedly demanded $5 million or Mr Barrett would expose the group in the media. Mr Barrett has not been charged with any offence.

Colourful Sydney property developer and former publican Daniel Hausman has been charged alongside Rostankovski with blackmail offences.

Only hours before he was murdered in 2009, loan shark Michael McGurk met with Mr Hausman in the Lord Dudley hotel in Woollahra to talk about a Kings Cross hotel deal.

The alleged blackmail attempt is said to have taken place at a meeting at the Martin Place offices of Clamenz Lawyers on February 1.

One of the partners of the firm, 33-year-old Dev Menon, allegedly gave advice about how the scheme should be managed and was charged on Thursday as one of the seven key players.

As part of their bail conditions, those charged were ordered not to associate or contact a group of people including Sevag Chalabian.

Mr Chalabian, a former partner at Phillips Fox, gave evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that he aided the family of now jailed former minister Eddie Obeid to create an elaborate series of trusts and front companies to disguise a $60 million payment. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframeATO’);

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Businesses, households paid to use less power next summer

Victorian businesses and households will be able to volunteer to get paid to use less electricity at times of stress on the national grid under a program to be trialled next summer.

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Incentive payments will be offered to energy users who agree to be on standby to cut use during emergencies or on days of high electricity demand. They will get a further compensation payment if they are called on to actually cut use.

The $22.5 million demand response pilot program, to be jointly run by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and also taking in South Australia, is pitched as an important step in integrating renewable energy into the grid.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said it would help the electricity system deal with high demand as it unfolds without the need to build expensive fossil fuel plants – gas-fired generators – that are only called on occasionally.

The agencies aim to have the equivalent of 100 megawatts of demand, roughly 2 per cent of average Victorian electricity use, signed up by next summer.

Ms Zibelman said it was a common approach in other countries. “From Texas to Taiwan, demand response has been proven to be a cost-effective way to manage demand at peak times and acts as a contingency to avoid disruptive power outages,” she said.

The method and amount of payment is yet to be determined, but is likely to be a competitive process where interested parties apply for funding.

ARENA expects applicants may include both individual businesses – manufacturers, for example – and groups of smaller energy users, possibly including households that rely on air conditioners or have battery systems.

It is likely the smaller users would apply through a company that aggregates their claims – probably their energy retailer. The compensation could be paid as a discount or a cash rebate.

Energy industry analysts have long called for a greater emphasis on demand management to soften the extraordinary peaks in electricity use on hot days when air conditioners are humming along the Australian east coast. Last summer there were instances of forced load shedding – effectively blackouts in targeted areas – at times of high demand.

Electricity demand in Victoria at peak times is about 80 per cent higher than average. It means households and businesses pay for hugely expensive electricity from power plants used only a fraction of the time.

Demand management can also make a difference at non-peak times. As Fairfax Media revealed on Thursday, wholesale electricity prices in Victoria have risen more than 25 per cent since the Hazelwood power station closed, in part due to a greater reliance on expensive gas-fired plants designed for only occasional use.

Nationally, wholesale electricity prices have risen nearly 50 per cent in a year due to high gas prices and uncertainty over what plants will be favoured by future policy settings stalling investment.

The Victorian government said on Thursday it was providing funding for more than 3300 homes to become more energy efficient, and upgrading more than 11,000 public housing homes.

Adam Morton is on Facebook and Twitter

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The unknown who got a standing ovation for Don’t Tell

Aden Young as Stephen Roche and Sara West as Lyndal in Don’t Tell.?? Jack Thompson has had decades of accolades for his acting. But it was a standing ovation for an anonymous Australian woman in the audience that made him emotional at the world premiere of Don’t Tell in California last month.

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The film, described as Australia’s Spotlight, tells the story of how the woman, known only as Lyndal, won a landmark court case over the sexual abuse she suffered at school.

The drama shows a damaged but defiant Lyndal taking on Queensland’s Toowoomba Preparatory School a decade after she was abused by a boarding house master when she was 12.

It was a case that later led to the resignation of Peter Hollingworth as governor-general – he was Archbishop of Brisbane at the time of the abuse – and contributed to the creation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Lyndal, now in her late thirties, attended the premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival, where Don’t Tell won the audience award.

Thompson was thrilled to see her get such a warm response after so many years of suffering.

“When it was pointed out that she was there, she stood up – bless her heart – with tears in her eyes and the whole theatre gave her a standing ovation because it’s a tale of her courage,” he says. “Just telling the story brings a tear to my eye.”

Don’t Tell is based on a book by lawyer Stephen Roche (played by Aden Young), who represented 22-year-old Lyndal (Sara West) when she took action against the school in 2001.

The school had denied she had been sexually abused by a boarding house master Kevin Guy (Gyton Grantley) a decade earlier. Her win meant the Anglican Archdiocese of Brisbane had to pay compensation of more than $800,000.

In an exceptional cast for a $4.5 million film, Rachel Griffiths plays a psychologist who counselled Lyndal, with Susie Porter and Martin Sacks as her parents, Thompson and Jacqueline McKenzie as rival barristers and Kim Knuckey as Hollingworth.

Director Tori Garrett was also touched by the ovation for Lyndal at the premiere.

“Oh my god,” she says. “She was brave enough to stand up; it’s making me emotional now talking about it. I was weeping. It was just a fantastic thing.”

After the film was rejected for funding by traditional sources – both because of the difficult subject matter and because Oscar best picture winner Spotlight had already covered similar territory – Roche eventually put up much of the budget.

“People were saying, ‘It’s already been done. You’re not going to be better than Spotlight’,” Thompson says. “But this is a different telling of the tale of institutional abuse.”

The veteran actor stresses the film tells a triumphant story.

“This film is a victory for Lyndal,” he says. “She’s a victim of child abuse but she’s a winner.”

Thompson, who is is among many to be angered by the extent of child sexual abuse revealed during the Royal Commission, sees the film as valuable for giving victims hope for justice and for showing how it has been allowed to take place.

“What makes me angry is the covering up of it,” he says. “There’s a growing awareness that it it needs to be openly presented and exposed. A whole lot less young people will fall victim to sexual predators if they’re aware of what this movie is about.

“It’s not a movie in which you see terrible detail of sexual abuse. In fact, it depicts apparently how easily it all happens. How it’s so easy for a young, unsophisticated person on the edge of becoming an adult to be persuaded by an older person. It’s a real window into how institutional abuse occurs.”

Thompson says the strength of the writing by James Greville, Ursula Cleary and Anne Brooksbank??? attracted the top-flight cast.

“The script is simply and beautifully written,” he says. “It doesn’t make anyone out to be villains or heroes. It simply presents the tale itself and it presents it very accurately.”

Directing her first film after working on such television series as Wentworth, Wonderland and Hiding, Garrett says anger fuelled what she calls a triumphant survivor story.

“I felt very strongly that this was a terrible wrong that had happened to this child,” she says “The courage she had to fight and right the wrong was just amazing to me.

“I have a 12-year-old daughter who goes to a similar school and I thought the complete absence of accountability by the church and the school – and the cover-up of the truth – to the detriment of an innocent, beautiful girl just made me furious. I was very compelled to tell the story for Lyndal.”

Garrett rattles off a list of films that were inspiration for Don’t Tell.

“I wanted to make a legal drama like To Kill A Mockingbird and Erin Brockovich and The Verdict and those kind of films about justice being done.”

Garrett came to know Lyndal well making the film and says she is now a single mother who has managed to avoid the tragic fate of many sexual abuse victims – suicide.

“She’s a very strong person,” she says. “Otherwise she would never have got through this. But she’s very fragile; she’s ruined on the inside.”

Don’t Tell is screening now.

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The one thing most investors get wrong

Housing affordability continues to make headlines, with a variety of strategies being canvassed to discourage investment in residential real estate. These include reducing the availability of interest-only loans, and Labor’s policy of allowing a tax offset against wages and salary only on brand-new investment properties.

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Last week’s budget tried to dampen investor enthusiasm still further by preventing tax deductibility for travelling expenses for visiting a property, and eliminating the ability to claim depreciation on assets that were part of the original purchase by the use of a quantity surveyor certificate.

There is anecdotal evidence that these measures are having an effect – which is a sad reflection on the mentality of the average property investor. There is a fundamental investment principle that should be framed and hung in every investor’s home: An investment should be judged on its merits; any tax benefits that may come with it should be regarded as the cream on the cake.

I was reflecting on this with my accountant last week when we were discussing the state of the nation in general and the budget in particular. I said, “If I found a fantastic investment property, in the right location, that ticked all the boxes, and I could get it for a bargain, do you really think I would care what kinds of tax deductions I could get?”

He smiled, and responded, “Sadly Noel, most of my clients don’t have that mindset.”

Obviously, it’s time for a refresher course on investment. The main reason we invest is to buy an asset today in the expectation it will increase in value, enabling us to build wealth for the future. There are a wide range of assets in which one could invest, but most experienced investors prefer property or shares because, if well chosen, they should provide good capital growth over the long haul, and an income along the way.

Borrowing is a great tool for anyone investing in growth assets. It enables you to buy the asset now, instead of saving up for it, and also magnifies your net return.

Suppose a person buys an investment property for $500,000, and by using the equity in their own home as a deposit can borrow the entire purchase price on an interest-only basis. If the net yield from the property is 4 per cent, they should receive $20,000 a year in taxable income, and if they can borrow at 4.5 per cent, their cash outlay for interest is $22,500 a year. Their cash shortfall is just $2500 a year, and if the rents increase by inflation the property should be at least neutrally geared within five years, which means it is now costing nothing to own it.

If the property increases by 4 per cent a year, it should be worth $740,000 in 10 years.The debt would still be $500,000 so they have made a pre-tax profit of $240,000 for a minimal outlay.

But that is the perfect scenario. It assumes that interest rates stay where they are, the property is continually rented, there are no big outlays for renovation or maintenance, and the capital gain is 4 per cent a year. There are many people who are facing capital losses rather than gains, including those who paid more than $800,000 for properties in remote mining towns and are now facing losses of over $400,000 a property – or would be, if they could find a buyer.

Note carefully that these examples ignore any tax benefits that might go with the deal. As I said before, they are the cream on the cake. The message is simple – buy the right property and you should do well, buy a dud and you will take a bath. Remember, borrowing magnifies any investment outcome – positive or negative.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions. Email:[email protected]广州桑拿.

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Why you need to read . . . Peter Polites

To readDown the Hume, Peter Polites’ fierce first novel, is to step into the literary wilds.

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Set in the middle of the ‘burbs in western Sydney, it features a lad of migrant stock addicted to painkillers, with a boyfriend, Nice Arms Pete, who has a “rockmelon arse” and a bad case of roid rage.

The book began with a short story, More Handsome than a Monkey, written for the anthology, Stories of Sydney, and Polites’ short story began with a chance meeting with a stranger in a bar in which he works.

“He was hanging out with people who were kind of inappropriate,” Polites says. “In the limited interactions I had with this person – you know you can smell the country on people sometimes – he just left this spark in me. It wasn’t desire, it was imagination.”

It was about this time that Polites and two fellow directors of Sweatshop, a writers’ collective based at the University of Western Sydney, developed the show #ThreeJerks, a spoken word piece in response to the Skaf gang rapes.

The performance, like the collective, challenged stereotypical representations of race and cultural identity.

“What I love about western Sydney is its complex diversity,” Polites says, a first-generation Australian of Greek descent. “By diversity, I don’t only mean cultural diversity, I mean economic diversity in that there’s commission housing and next to that commission housing someone might have a $150,000 Jeep.”

Down the Hume is pulp noir, in the vein of books such as Irvine Welsh’s short-story collection,Trainspotting, where the main character, Bucky, must hold his own against seemingly impossible odds, even his own self-destructive addictions.

Polites is one of three guest curators who will bring their unique vision to the Sydney Writers’ Festival program. Sweatshop will launch The Big Black Thing, a new anthology by emerging and established writers from migrant, refugee and Indigenous backgrounds.

Polites has programmed a session of performance readings from the anthology by some of western Sydney’s next generation, including Maryam Azam???, Winnie Dunn, Shirley Le and Stephen Pham.

“In our lifetime I do hope we see a change of representation but also that people are rethinking what writing is and what that means in terms of our society,” Polites says.

THE BIG BLACK THING, SUNDAY, MAY 28, 11.30AM-12.30PM, SWF.ORG.AU

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