WEDNESDAY DEC 9
The Australian Taxation Office has 19 active criminal investigations into fraud against the $101 billion JobKeeper scheme, according to a special ABC report.
It has also issued fines to another 19 applicants to the wage subsidy program who have made false or misleading statements, and is considering penalties for another 24.
The exclusive investigative report by Pat McGrath said that since JobKeeper was launched in March, the ATO has clawed back $120 million in payments to applicants who made it into the system but were later found to be ineligible.
“While most businesses and employees are doing the right thing, we have identified concerning and fraudulent behaviour and claims by a small number of organisations and employees,” the ATO said in a statement.
The agency declined to comment on whether the criminal investigations relate to employers or employees and would not provide details about any of the businesses involved or when the investigations began.
However, ABC Investigations understands employers and individual workers are being investigated over fraud and abuse of the scheme.
Applicants could face a prison sentence or fines if found guilty of defrauding the scheme.
The program was designed to keep workers in jobs during the COVID-19 economic crisis by paying struggling business $1,500 per fortnight for each eligible employee.
In July, the Federal Government extended JobKeeper to March next year but reduced the fortnightly payment to $1,200 for full-time workers and $750 for part-timers and casuals from September.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to downgrade the estimated final cost of the scheme in this month’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, after the number of workers on JobKeeper almost halved in October as the economy gathered pace.
In a statement, Mr Frydenberg said the government was “committed to ensuring the integrity of the JobKeeper payment.”
“Comprehensive integrity and compliance arrangements have been put in place to support the delivery of the JobKeeper Payment,” he said.
“To date, the ATO has reported that the vast majority of JobKeeper applicants are doing the right thing with very low incidences of fraud being observed.”
The fraud investigation revelations come as the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) considers its own probe into the scheme.
According to its website, the ANAO has flagged JobKeeper for a potential audit next year that would include an “examination of the implementation of integrity measures designed to protect the scheme against fraud and other abuse.”
The ATO fraud hotline has received more than 10,000 tip-offs about fraud against JobKeeper, including claims that some employers have not been passing on the full subsidy to their employees.
ABC Investigations has also spoken to workers concerned that their employers may have artificially suppressed their revenue in order to qualify for the scheme, for example by delaying invoicing customers or removing popular items from sale in retail stores.
Police say the man convicted of murdering Allecha Boyd has led them to human remains believed to be those of the Wagga Wagga woman.
The grim find in a state forest in the NSW Riverina comes almost 10 months after Ms Boyd’s family pleaded with her convicted killer to reveal where he left her body as he was sentenced to 27 years’ jail for murder.
The 27-year-old was last seen alive in Coolamon in August 2017 and there have been several searches for her remains.
Samuel John Shepherd was sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment for Ms Boyd’s murder earlier this year, and another man and a woman have been sentenced for being accessories after the fact.
NSW police today said the remains were found in the Lester State Forest, 20 kilometres south-west of Coolamon, and although they were yet to undergo forensic testing, they were confident they had found Ms Boyd.
Shepherd accompanied police and corrective service officers on a search of the site yesterday and Superintendent Bob Noble said it was information he provided to that led to the location.
“There’s nothing to suggest he wasn’t motivated by sincere motives,” he said.
“Ultimately, yes, he did take us to the place yesterday where the remains were exhumed.”
Ms Boyd’s sister, Rhiannon, reacted on Facebook to the discovery.
“We can finally lay my sister to rest, still in so much disbelief yet such a bittersweet moment,” the post read
Superintendent Noble said there had been a “significant” number of searches for Ms Boyd’s body since she went missing, in an area that was “remote and not well marked”.
“It’s been a painstaking process for police over a period of three years,” he said.
“We’re very pleased with this development.”
NRL legend Mark Geyer’s daughter has been awarded $125,000 in damages after a rugby league meme page wrongly named her as being the woman in Tyrone May’s infamous sex tape, reports news.com .
Montanna Geyer had sued Fouad Ghosn, the man accused of publishing the posts on NRL Memes and NRL Quality Memes on March 4, 2019, claiming she was the “bird in the Tyrone May video”.
Judge Judith Gibson awarded the substantial sum to Ms Geyer on Wednesday after a week-long trial in November, saying the post’s claims were not only hurtful but a “figment of the defendant’s imagination”.
Ms Geyer’s payout could increase when the matter returns to court on December 18 for a costs hearing.
At trial, Ms Geyer claimed the memes left her feeling “completely broken”, while her friends and famous father described how a “bubbly” young woman became too scared to leave the house.
Western Sydney man Mr Ghosn, 24, denied owning the pages, claiming he had never used social media and suggested he may have been framed as the culprit.
A jury found in Ms Geyer’s favour in the case of NRL Memes but that her barrister had not proved Mr Ghosn published a similar post on NRL Quality Memes.
Ms Geyer sought aggravated damages and claimed she was defamed in six ways, including that she was intimately involved in the sex tape scandal and that she was an “indecent and lewd” person who would allow herself to be filmed during sex for the purpose of sharing with others.
The jury of four men found she had been defamed in all six ways.
Ms Gibson wrote in her judgment that the posts clearly had a “profound impact on her personally for a considerable time”.
That hurt was “exacerbated” by Mr Ghosn’s failure to apologise despite repeated requests from Ms Geyer’s lawyers, she said, and instead took to his meme page to hit back at the legal action.
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