COVID-19 CASH FRAUD CRACKDOWN
Covid-19 cash fraud is gearing up to be one of the biggest legal issues of our time.
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Federal and State governments offered employers unprecedented stimulus and grant packages.
And while this support was a lifeline for many, some saw it as an opportunity to rort the system while others have simply made a genuine mistake.
Those involved in the latter two cases could now face investigation for fraud and face criminal penalties, which could include repayment of money gained, hefty fines, a criminal record and/or, in the most extreme cases, 10 years jail time.
Fourtree Lawyers principal solicitor Kevin Vierboom said: “Most people don’t consider the obtaining of a government grant to be fraud or for that matter a serious offence. The reality is that the assistance was offered on the basis that an applicant met certain criteria which were clearly defined.”
Any business which has “cooked the books” in order to be eligible for the NSW Government’s Covid-19 support grant is in the firing line.
Resurrecting an old ABN that has not been used for years or exaggerating the impact of Covid-19 on business activity are some of the examples that are considered as fraudulent.
The ATO with all its cross-referencing powers is also on the hunt for businesses and individuals involved in fraudulent schemes that have taken advantage of Covid-19 stimulus packages.
The ATO is zeroing in on inconsistencies related to:
- Covid-19 business cash flow boost;
- Jobkeeper; and
- Early withdrawal of superannuation.
The NSW Police Force have established task force “Roche” to investigate businesses guilty of defrauding of Service NSW small business COVID-19 support grant of up to $10,000.
Mr Vierboom warned: “Where a business is approached by either the Australian Taxation Office or the NSW Police, they should seek legal advice prior to engaging in any type of interview. As a rule, “the right to silence” exists in relation to providing information to any investigating authority for matters like this.”