Paul Hogan’s lawyer reacts to tax fraud

Andrew Robinson, who represented Paul Hogan during Project Wickenby, and who the ATO pursued for eight years, talks about the tax office’s head of fraud, Michael Cranston, who is currently the subject of investigation.

Paul Hogans Lawyer reacts to tax fraud

Introduction

Ross Greenwood: I want to take you now to another aspect of this case, and this is about the robustness that all of us have in our tax system. One of the fundamental tenants of the Australian tax system is that all Australian tax payers should be treated equally. The second thing is that the system should be fair.

The reason for that is as you pay your taxes, you want to be confident that you’re being treated exactly the same as somebody else, because that would encourage you to pay your taxes and not to try and avoid your taxes. This is a really important case in regards to the confidence we have in the tax system. Now, say, for example, if you’ve got a person who has lead most of the major investigations into potential tax avoidance over the past 35 years on, sit here and think Operation Wickenby, think the Panama Papers, think about all of the Phoenix companies, range of others that Michael Cranston has been involved in.

This is about the Australian public’s confidence in that system, that it is just and that it is fair. Now what we heard today is that Michael Cranston may have become involved by trying to access information, or cut sort of deal, on behalf of his son. Quite clearly there’s going to be more examined when this goes into the law courts, but I want to take you now to another example, somebody who pursued another tax payer, Michael Cranston is the head of the investigation team at the tax office pursued Paul Hogan and Jon Corneal for almost eight years as part of Operation Wickenby.

Interview

Hogan and Corneal were ultimately exonerated from anything as a result of those investigations. Andrew Robinson, from Robinson Legal, was the one who was acting for Paul Hogan and Jon Corneal in those matters, he is on the line right now. Many thanks for your time Andrew.

Andrew: Hi, Ross.

Ross Greenwood: You first hand had the experience, through Paul Hogan and Jon Corneal, of being pursued by the tax office through these Operation Wickenby investigations, just explain what sort of an experience that was given, of course, it took a long time in and awful lot of resources to have both Hogan and Corneal exonerated?

Andrew: Well, I think people may or may not understand, it was an incredibly difficult eight years for John and Hogan’s life to be overturned on a daily basis with constant and repetitive allegations of wrong doing, which simply weren’t true and in the end was found to be untrue. Your listeners may remember it got the extend of Hogan being served with departure prohibition order on the occasion of his mother’s funeral, which I think if anyone want to look at stress and personal difficulty, it probably wouldn’t go much higher than that.

Ross Greenwood: When you start to see some of the things that we’ve seen unfold today, I mean, it really is about if you’re going to be the person leading these examinations, you’ve got to be beyond reproach at every stage, I would imagine. Now it’s obviously going to go through the courts, it’s an important aspect, but this is really important for Australian tax payers to view the process really quite forensically, I would’ve thought?

Andrew: Look, I agree with that. In a sense I feel for Michael Cranston. I think being faced with the news that your two children are going to be charged with very serious offenses that will probably carry some jail terms, and you think you might have an ability to deal them out or do something. I think the conflict between being a parent and being a senior member of the tax department would almost be unbearable, and it seems from the new reports that unfortunately he made the wrong choice.

I think having made that wrong choice the government really has no choice for the time but to make an example of him to deter others from making the same decision and also dragging other staff members into the imbroglio.

Ross Greenwood: We should make mention of that because there are certainly other Australian Tax Office staff, who also, like Michael Cranston, have been called to appear before the courts. Now Cranston has not being formally charged at this stage, although the expectation of it is that he will be, for trying to access documents that otherwise should not have been accessed. Now those other tax office employees also, they’re not junior tax office employees, are they?

Andrew: No. At least two of them are in the assistant commissioner range

Paul Hogans Lawyer reacts to tax fraud

Introduction

Ross Greenwood: I want to take you now to another aspect of this case, and this is about the robustness that all of us have in our tax system. One of the fundamental tenants of the Australian tax system is that all Australian tax payers should be treated equally. The second thing is that the system should be fair.

The reason for that is as you pay your taxes, you want to be confident that you’re being treated exactly the same as somebody else, because that would encourage you to pay your taxes and not to try and avoid your taxes. This is a really important case in regards to the confidence we have in the tax system. Now, say, for example, if you’ve got a person who has lead most of the major investigations into potential tax avoidance over the past 35 years on, sit here and think Operation Wickenby, think the Panama Papers, think about all of the Phoenix companies, range of others that Michael Cranston has been involved in.

This is about the Australian public’s confidence in that system, that it is just and that it is fair. Now what we heard today is that Michael Cranston may have become involved by trying to access information, or cut sort of deal, on behalf of his son. Quite clearly there’s going to be more examined when this goes into the law courts, but I want to take you now to another example, somebody who pursued another tax payer, Michael Cranston is the head of the investigation team at the tax office pursued Paul Hogan and Jon Corneal for almost eight years as part of Operation Wickenby.

Interview

Hogan and Corneal were ultimately exonerated from anything as a result of those investigations. Andrew Robinson, from Robinson Legal, was the one who was acting for Paul Hogan and Jon Corneal in those matters, he is on the line right now. Many thanks for your time Andrew.

Andrew: Hi, Ross.

Ross Greenwood: You first hand had the experience, through Paul Hogan and Jon Corneal, of being pursued by the tax office through these Operation Wickenby investigations, just explain what sort of an experience that was given, of course, it took a long time in and awful lot of resources to have both Hogan and Corneal exonerated?

Andrew: Well, I think people may or may not understand, it was an incredibly difficult eight years for John and Hogan’s life to be overturned on a daily basis with constant and repetitive allegations of wrong doing, which simply weren’t true and in the end was found to be untrue. Your listeners may remember it got the extend of Hogan being served with departure prohibition order on the occasion of his mother’s funeral, which I think if anyone want to look at stress and personal difficulty, it probably wouldn’t go much higher than that.

Ross Greenwood: When you start to see some of the things that we’ve seen unfold today, I mean, it really is about if you’re going to be the person leading these examinations, you’ve got to be beyond reproach at every stage, I would imagine. Now it’s obviously going to go through the courts, it’s an important aspect, but this is really important for Australian tax payers to view the process really quite forensically, I would’ve thought?

Andrew: Look, I agree with that. In a sense I feel for Michael Cranston. I think being faced with the news that your two children are going to be charged with very serious offenses that will probably carry some jail terms, and you think you might have an ability to deal them out or do something. I think the conflict between being a parent and being a senior member of the tax department would almost be unbearable, and it seems from the new reports that unfortunately he made the wrong choice.

I think having made that wrong choice the government really has no choice for the time but to make an example of him to deter others from making the same decision and also dragging other staff members into the imbroglio.

Ross Greenwood: We should make mention of that because there are certainly other Australian Tax Office staff, who also, like Michael Cranston, have been called to appear before the courts. Now Cranston has not being formally charged at this stage, although the expectation of it is that he will be, for trying to access documents that otherwise should not have been accessed. Now those other tax office employees also, they’re not junior tax office employees, are they?

Andrew: No. At least two of them are in the assistant commissioner range, so very senior people within the ATO.

Ross Greenwood: This becomes an important examination of the Australian Tax Office, and indeed even potentially the way in which it goes about its own business, I would’ve thought?

Andrew: Well, it is. Also it must be embarrassing for the commissioner because you’ve got to a person who is really held the role through a number of commissioners now, have been what’s been touted as the chief compliance office within the ATO, being put in a position where he has controlled a number of those very high profile projects that you speak about, but generally in the sense of looking after what’s been peerlessly labelled and in-changed labels but essentially sort of the high net worth people.

One of the messages he’s continually put to all of us is what we all need to do, is to be on the lookout for unexplained and unusually prompt development of sudden wealth. As you look past the list this morning of what might have been involved is 22 luxury cars, and two planes, and jewellery, and 18 properties and so on, it’s hard to believe that someone wasn’t looking at that massive accretion of wealth and thinking, “What’s going on here?”

Ross Greenwood: That’s the interesting thing. Tell me Michael Cranston himself, as you’re part of those Operation Wickenby investigations and legal matters, what sort of an adversary was it to come up against when he was working inside the tax office?

Andrew: He was a very hard working, very tenacious person pretesting and perusing what he perceived to be the right of the taxation office. I have no complaints in terms of how ultimate that case was run, and I think as we all know, as the Hogan case ran, as it got older and older, more facts became available, that showed that Paul was not the person that the ATO originally painted him to be. I think in the end people like Michael Cranston came to understand that, and that’s why a resolution then occurred.

Ross Greenwood: It’s always good to have you on the program and get that perspective as well. Andrew Robinson, as I said, founded Robinson Legal in 1982, and for eight years represented Paul Hogan in his efforts to drop those charges that were brought against him through that Operation Wickenby process. Andrew, I appreciate your time here on the program.

Andrew: My pleasure Ross.

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