Dev Menon sentenced to 14 years in Australia’s largest tax fraud case

The 39-year-old lawyer, who used his legal expertise to aid in covering up the scheme, actively participated in the conspiracy for nearly two years.

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Dev Menon, a corrupt lawyer involved in one of Australia’s largest tax frauds, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. Menon, along with four others, was found guilty in relation to the Plutus Payroll scam, a massive tax evasion scheme that ran for approximately three years until its closure in 2017. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) suffered a loss of over $105 million as a result of the fraud.

The 39-year-old lawyer, who used his legal expertise to aid in covering up the scheme, actively participated in the conspiracy for nearly two years. Menon’s involvement facilitated the diversion of approximately $75 million intended for the tax office to his co-conspirators, including the son of former ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston.

During sentencing at the New South Wales Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Payne emphasised Menon’s pivotal role in the long-term success of the tax fraud.

“Mr Menon’s accounting and legal skills and his professional reputation as a commercial and taxation lawyer were crucial for the long-term successful operation of both conspiracies,” ABC quoted Justice Payne.

“He took substantial steps to try and conceal the fraud from detection, including by lying to authorities, orchestrating the forging of documents, discussing and directing the destruction of evidence, and coaching others to tell false stories to authorities,” he said.

Menon, visibly affected by the sentence, appeared via video link from prison wearing prison greens and bowed his head upon hearing the verdict. In contrast to his co-conspirators, who used the proceeds of the fraud to fund extravagant lifestyles, Justice Payne noted that Menon’s motivations were not primarily driven by personal gain.

The Plutus Payroll scam involved withholding tax and GST from legitimate clients, including government agencies, through the payroll business Plutus Payroll. Fake subsidiary companies were established to create the appearance of unrelated subcontractors, effectively hiding the tax debt and maintaining Plutus’s outward legitimacy.

Justice Payne highlighted intercepted phone conversations in which Menon expressed confidence in the complexity of the scheme, believing it would go undetected by authorities. However, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) had been monitoring Menon and his co-conspirators for months.

Furthermore, Menon was criticised for exploiting vulnerable individuals with drug habits, installing them as directors of fraudulent subsidiary companies. Justice Payne condemned Menon’s conduct as thoroughly discreditable for a solicitor, facilitating the concealment of multimillion-dollar companies by individuals who did not know their purported control.

According to Justice Payne, Menon exhibited no remorse for his crimes and emphasised the collective financial injury tax fraud inflicted on the community.

The judge warned that the loss incurred would necessitate the Commonwealth extracting a greater amount of taxation from other citizens, either presently or in the future.

Justice Payne deemed Dev Menon’s culpability in the fraud scheme to be more significant than two of his co-conspirators, Lauren Cranston and Patrick Willmott, who received maximum sentences of eight and nine years, respectively. The sentencing for the remaining two co-conspirators is pending.

The Plutus Payroll tax evasion case serves as a stark reminder of the damaging consequences of financial crimes and the commitment of law enforcement agencies to bring those responsible to justice.

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