Court hands down first ever conviction under JobKeeper scheme
An individual has been convicted by a court for making false and misleading statements to the Commissioner of Taxation in order to pocket $6,000 in JobKeeper payments, the first such conviction in relation to the scheme.
Raed Saleh was convicted at the Heidelberg Magistrates Court. In addition to the conviction, Mr Saleh was fined $3,000 and was ordered to pay reparations of $3,000 and costs of $282.
Mr Saleh applied for and lodged two months of JobKeeper claims online, declaring he had experienced a downturn of at least 30 per cent for the months of May and June, he was a sole trader, his business met all the eligibility requirements and he had not agreed to be nominated by any other employer or entity.
He also confirmed prior to submitting the applications and claims to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that it was all true and correct.
However, the true state of Mr Saleh’s affairs was that he was not operating a genuine business and he had already agreed to be nominated by his full-time employer for the allowance.
Mr Saleh received $3,000 from his false May 2020 claim, but his June claim was stopped by the ATO pending further investigation.
Mr Saleh also pleaded guilty to the charges after admitting to the ATO that he had not been carrying on a business as a sole trader, had agreed to be nominated as an employee with his full-time employer, and was not eligible for the JobKeeper payments.
ATO deputy commissioner Will Day welcomed the conviction, saying fraud against the stimulus measures is fraud against the community, effectively stealing from the pockets of taxpayers at a time when the community needs it most.
“We have an important role to ensure the integrity of the stimulus measures and when we uncover fraud or people seeking to exploit them, we will take action, as we know the community would expect us to do,” Mr Day said.
“Since the first payments were made in April, the ATO has monitored every payment, every day, every month, and will continue to do so until the last payment is made.
“We know most people are honest, and we work with employers to overcome genuine mistakes. However, as this case demonstrates, where people deliberately seek to exploit the stimulus measures, we will put a stop to it and apply the full force of the law.”