Rag trade cheats caught in raids
A scam involving fake Australian brand clothing, welfare payment cheats and tax avoidance was the target of a series of raids in Sydney which resulted in three arrests, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison said today.
Senator Ellison said a joint operation by the Australian Federal Police, Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs had culminated in searches on 10 premises and a number of vehicles in a coordinated operation across southern Sydney on Thursday.
“The agencies involved in this joint operation into the clothing industry in Sydney are investigating alleged fraud involving intellectual property, corporations law, welfare recipients and tax-evasion,” Senator Ellison said.
Acting Minister for Family and Community Services Larry Anthony said the investigation started after Centrelink received a tip-off about welfare recipients allegedly making fake copies of famous Australian clothing brands, such as Mambo and Billabong, as well as other overseas brands.
Mr Anthony said Centrelink had cancelled the welfare payments of 10 people following the raids when evidence was produced that they were receiving cash payments for their services and failing to declare these incomes.
“This successful operation will save taxpayers at least $100,000 a year and is further proof that the Government is serious about catching welfare fraudsters,” Mr Anthony said.
“The Government appreciates the assistance of those members of the community who brought this case to the attention of authorities.”
In the joint operation, AFP federal agents with assistance from Centrelink and Tax officers searched houses, a factory, a warehouse, a storage facility and an accountant’s office.
They found a substantial quantity of clothing with allegedly fake brands, printing and computer equipment and documents allegedly connecting the business to the sale of clothes through party plans.
Three people, a 58 year-old man and his 56 year-old wife from Grays Point, and their 34 year-old son from Bondi, have been charged under the Trade Marks Act with falsely applying a registered trade mark. All three have been released on bail to appear in Central and Sutherland local courts at the end of March.
“These offences cheat honest Australian citizens who believe they are buying the original top quality products and they cheat the businesses that have invested heavily to establish brand names which are known around the world,” Senator Ellison said.
“The wage and business records seized during the raids will continue to be examined to uncover any evasion of tax and Customs duty by those allegedly involved in this scam.”
Mr Anthony said Centrelink received more than 110,000 tip-offs a year and that information was critical in the fight against people who were ripping off the system. He encouraged people who suspected illegal activity to log onto the Reportafraud website or call the dedicated Reportafraud telephone number on 13 7230)
Media note: The AFP has limited vision and still photographs from the clothing factory. Please contact Steve Simpson on 02/9286 4819 or 0438 768 300.