Trial begins over alleged major construction tax fraud

More than a hundred hours of secret police recordings will be played at the trial of a group of men accused of illegally withholding over $13 million of tax from the government, a court has heard.

The trial, which began on Monday at Sydney's Darlinghurst Supreme Court, is expected to run for six months and involve multiple alleged co-conspirators.

George Alex, Arthur Alex, Mark Bryers, Gordon McAndrew, Pasquale Loccisano and Lindsay Kirschberg have been charged with conspiring, along with others, to bring a loss to the Commonwealth.

All of the men, aside from Connell, are also accused of dealing with the proceeds of crime valued at one million dollars or more, while Arthur Alex faces an additional charge of dealing with the proceeds of crime.

The men have pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

It is alleged the group used "shield" companies to withhold pay as you go (PAYG) tax owed to the the Australian Taxation Office between 2018 and 2020, while also operating legitimate labour hire companies.

The Crown will allege during that time worker wages and entitlements were paid as normal.

In an initial address to the jury, which was empanelled on Monday, Justice Desmond Fagan said the trial is expected to include over 130 hours of police recordings taken from phone calls between the men, as well as listening devices placed in their homes and places of work.

Crown prosecutor Chris O'Donnell SC said during his opening address the alleged conspirators “adopted various strategies” to avoid detection.

By using second tier "shield" companies to pay the workers and make them responsible to pay the PAYG, it allegedly provided the men with an excuse why their primary businesses were not paying the tax.

Once the PAYG debts were accumulated by any of the second tier companies, they had served their purpose and were allegedly “pulled down”, the jury heard.

The men allegedly used a number of different excuses to explain why the second-tier companies were not paying the tax, including that another company was the employer of the workers and that the companies were purely "clearing houses".

The Crown will allege the men "changed their plans and their strategies over time depending on who was speaking and to whom they were speaking," Mr O'Donnell told the jury.

"The Crown alleges all of their explanations in effect were false," he said.

The prosecution's opening address is expected to run over four days.


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