A Balgownie woman accused of helping run a $165 million tax fraud syndicate was granted strict conditional bail in Wollongong Local Court on Thursday.
Devyn Hammond, a 24-year-old businesswoman originally from Zimbabwe, was among nine people charged by the Australian Federal Police following raids on properties in Sydney, the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands on Wednesday morning.
Police will allege the fraud involved the establishment of a legitimate payroll company – run by the syndicate members – which accepted money from legitimate clients to process payroll on their behalf.
This money was transferred to seven sub-contracted companies, known as Tier 2 companies, which then made payroll payments to individual workers of clients.
While processing these payments, funds paid by legitimate clients to service tax obligations were allegedly siphoned off by the syndicate members and channelled through a complex series of companies and trusts for their own personal gain.
The investigation, codenamed Operation Elbrus, is being described as “unprecedented” and one of the biggest white collar fraud investigations in Australian history.
Hammond was arrested just after 7am on Wednesday and charged with one count of conspiring to cause a loss to the Australian Tax Office.
The offence is alleged to have occurred between June 2016 and May 2017 however the alleged nature of Hammond’s role in the syndicate was not publicly revealed during her brief appearance in court on Thursday morning.
Defence lawyer Matt Ward sought his client’s release on bail, which was not opposed by police, provided Hammond agree to comply with a strict set of conditions including twice weekly reporting and the surrender of her passport.
Under the bail conditions, Hammond has also been banned from contacting any of her co-accused or any directors of the Tier 2 companies.
An acceptable person is also required to forfeit $1,000 if Hammond fails to turn up to court.
The case was adjourned to the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney to join with the other co-accused’s cases on July 18.
Hammond was supported in court by family members.
Meantime police will allege the money obtained by the syndicate appeared to have been used to fund a “lavish lifestyle”.
Among the items seized during the raids were 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 houses, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.