First criminal conviction for JobKeeper fraud

Mr Raed Saleh has been convicted in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court of three counts of making a false and misleading statement to the Commissioner of Taxation, in order to receive $6,000 in JobKeeper payments to which he was not entitled to.

In addition to the conviction, Mr Saleh was fined $3,000, ordered to pay reparations of $3,000 and costs of $282.

Mr Saleh applied for and lodged two months of JobKeeper claims online, declaring he had experienced a downturn of at least 30% for the months of May and June, he was a sole trader, his business met all the eligibility requirements and he had not agreed to be nominated by any other employer or entity. He confirmed prior to submitting the applications and claims to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that it was all true and correct.

The true state of Mr Saleh’s affairs was that he was not operating a genuine business and he had already agreed to be nominated by his full-time employer for the allowance.

Mr Saleh received $3,000 from his false May 2020 claim, but his June claim was stopped by the ATO pending further investigation.

Mr Saleh pleaded guilty to the charges after admitting to the ATO that he had not been carrying on a business as a sole trader, had agreed to be nominated as an employee with his full-time employer, and was not eligible for the JobKeeper payments.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Will Day welcomed the conviction handed down today, saying fraud against the stimulus measures is fraud against the community, effectively stealing from the pockets of taxpayers at a time when the community needs it most.

“We have an important role to ensure the integrity of the stimulus measures and when we uncover fraud or people seeking to exploit them, we will take action, as we know the community would expect us to do,” Mr Day said.

“Since the first payments were made in April, the ATO has monitored every payment, every day, every month, and will continue to do so until the last payment is made.

“We know most people are honest, and we work with employers to overcome genuine mistakes. However, as this case demonstrates, where people deliberately seek to exploit the stimulus measures, we will put a stop to it and apply the full force of the law,” Mr Day said.

The ATO understands how vital the JobKeeper payment is to the community. As at 16 February 2021, $84 billion in JobKeeper payments have been made by the ATO to over 1 million businesses.

The ATO has a dedicated integrity strategy that supports the administration of the Government’s stimulus packages, with robust and efficient compliance systems that make it very easy to identify fraudulent behaviour and stop it.

There has been some concerning and fraudulent behaviour and claims by a small number of individuals. While most businesses and employees are doing the right thing, the ATO is committed to tackling illegal activity and behaviour of concern to protect honest businesses and the community.

Penalties for fraud can include financial penalties, prosecution, and imprisonment for the most serious cases.

If members of the community are concerned that someone is doing the wrong thing, they should tell the ATO about it by completing a tip-off form online at ato.gov.au/tipoff or by calling 1800 060 062.

More information about the ATO’s compliance approach for the COVID-19 stimulus measures are available on the ATO website at ato.gov.au/COVIDcompliance

Source – ato.gov.au

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