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Luxury property developer headed for jail, ATO signals clampdown

Aerial shot of suburbs

Serving as a caution to would-be property investors, one luxury property developer is headed to jail after it was found he caused a loss of $3.4 million to the Commonwealth.

NSW-based Benjamin Ensor was sentenced in the NSW District Court to six years in jail and ordered to pay reparations of more than $1.8 million.

Mr Ensor’s conviction came after an ATO investigation found he had structured his companies to fraudulently obtain GST credits and failed to report property sales to avoid paying GST, causing a loss to the Commonwealth of $3.4 million.

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Between 2008 and 2011, Mr Ensor lodged false BAS statements on behalf of nine companies of which he became the sole director, using the money he obtained to fund the purchase of luxury items including a marina at Lake Macquarie, a catamaran and a unit to live in.

The funds were also used to meet expenses incurred during the course of developing five beachfront luxury apartments in Manly.

Mr Ensor reported his companies’ expenditure was more than $24 million and claimed more than $2.2 million in GST refunds.

He also failed to report the sales of the Manly apartments on which he should have paid GST of more than $1.5 million.

In making his GST refund claims, Mr Ensor created false invoices that showed related companies provided project management services, and produced fraudulent invoices for the purchase of high-value excavators, trailers, trucks and catamarans.

ATO assistant commissioner Aislinn Walwyn said that the conviction represented the agency’s stance against illegal phoenix behaviour and tax crimes.

“This case exhibits classic illegal phoenix behaviour. Companies were deliberately liquidated to avoid paying creditors and taxes. New companies continued operating the same or a similar business with the same ownership,” Ms Walwyn said.

“Illegal phoenix activity is a serious threat to the integrity of the tax and superannuation systems and costs the community billions of dollars every year.

“As part of the multi-agency Phoenix Taskforce, the ATO is committed to taking strong action against illegal phoenix activity to protect all Australians.”

Luxury property developer headed for jail, ATO signals clampdown
Aerial shot of suburbs
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