One of the conspirators in the $100 million Plutus tax fraud pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, blackmail and money laundering.
Daniel Rostankovski, known as ‘Big D’, entered the guilty plea at the NSW Supreme Court on Friday where he appeared with six of his co-accused in relation to what is one of the largest corporate tax frauds.
The fraud allegedly involved a company called Plutus Payroll funnelling millions of dollars owed in pay as you go tax and GST through a complex network of lower-tier companies headed by dummy directors.
Police had alleged that Mr Rostankovski was in charge of organising and keeping the dummy directors in line.
By February 2017, he and property developer Daniel Hausman allegedly threatened to expose the fraud to crime reporter Steve Barrett if the conspirators did not give them some $5 million.
The accused conspirators allegedly paid the money, and an additional $19 million, in return for the promise that the media and authorities would not be notified.
Some of the money was allegedly laundered with the help of former lawyer Sevag Chalabian.
Fourth guilty plea
Mr Rostankovski is the fourth to plead guilty in the case and follows Plutus founder Simon Anquetil pleading guilty last week to fraud and money laundering charges.
Both were alleged to be part of the tax fraud conspiracy along with Adam Cranston, the son of former deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston, his sister Lauren Cranston, Jay Onley and lawyer Dev Menon.
Mr Rostankovski’s appearance on Friday was a rare one as he has been largely absent in the two years of court mentions since his arrest.
Commonwealth prosecutors handed up a confidential document to Justice Elizabeth Fullerton after it became apparent Mr Rostankovski was pleading guilty as it was said to potentially affect orders she may give but its contents were not revealed in court.
He will be sentenced in the District Court early next year.
His co-accused, Mr Barrett, pleaded not guilty to being part of of the blackmail plot and Mr Chalabian pleaded not guilty to dealing with proceeds of crime.
Mr Barrett is expected to face trial in June while Mr Chalabian is expected to face trial in October.
‘Take a moment’
Mr Cranston, Lauren Cranston, Mr Menon and Mr Onley all lined up beside each other to plead not guilty to charges of conspiracy to cause loss and dealing with proceeds of crime.
Mr Onley, in a white shirt and black suit jacket, was the last to plead and when it came to his turn he remained silent for several seconds.
Justice Fullerton told him to “take a pause, it’s an important time, take a moment”.
Mr Onley then went outside with his lawyer to consult before returning a few minutes later and saying “not guilty” in a low voice.
Justice Fullerton flagged that the trial for the four would take an estimated four months and would start in August next year before Justice Anthony Payne pending further directions.
Mr Cranston appeared unrepresented but lawyer Penny Musgrave told the court she would be representing him in the future “pro bono”.
Lawyers flagged issues with the Commonwealth’s lengthy brief of evidence as reason against scheduling a trial in the second half of the year.
Prosecutors said they were also reviewing the expert evidence on forensic accounting evidence and wouldn’t rule out further evidence.
But Justice Fullerton reiterated her statement that “I’m not going to give a trial in 2021, I’ll tell you that”.
“This matter has had a long life and as with all long lives they come to an end point.”
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