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Detectives have accused Tom Karas of being a key money launderer for the Mokbel drug empire.

It is alleged that he smuggled $A 390,000 in notes on a flight destined for Europe a few weeks before Mokbel fled to Greece in 2006.Karas said the Customs official at the airport let him through when he explained the purpose of the money was to pay the interest on a loan to a Greek businessman. Later, this was found to be untrue as the satchel of money was handed over to someone associated with Melbourne based gangs in Rome and not in Greece.Mokbel is now serving a 20-year prison sentence in Australia for drug offences.

The ATO has an extensive file on people who are suspected of gaining money through illegal means such as the trafficking in drugs, bank robberies and theft.

If a person derives an income from any activity he or she is required to declare that income for taxation purposes. Even if the annual earnings of an Australian are comparatively small it is a legal requirement to complete and file a tax assessment document with the ATO annually.

The problem with money obtained through illegal means is that the person in receipt of this money both cannot and will not declare the amount and its source. If a person does declare income gained through illegal means, the ATO may gain but the person will have fallen foul of the law and may be charged after an investigation and end up with a hefty penalty and even imprisonment.

A specific example of money laundering is when a drug dealer who doesn't work from 9-5, and makes $1 million from drug sales. With this money he or she can’t purchase a car, house or boat as the government will get suspicious of this lavish form of spending. The drug dealer opens a bar and fiddles with the financial records to reveal huge profits. He then pays his taxes on the money. It now looks as if the money has been earned and no questions will be asked, so from that time onwards he can use the drug money for other things.

Law enforcement agencies have spent many years locating those who supported Mokbel's lifestyle when he was fleeing from police, which included sending cash to him and operating his family's drug operations. These were international and were called “The Company”.

At present, as well as concerns over Mr Karas' trip, he is also fighting to keep control of a multimillion-dollar property and business empire that tax officials and police allege were built from the gains from criminal activity .

There are many legal issues surrounding the activities of Mr Karas and if in any way it is proven he has been involved in drug trafficking then Victoria’s state laws are harsh when it comes to penalties for such a crime. Taking action on tax cheats comes under the tax obligations outlined in the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA) and criminal convictions are the greatest penalty imposed.

Examples of offences are: failing to lodge a tax return or activity statement, making false or misleading statements and failing to keep appropriate records. The courts can impose security bonds, community service orders, fines, additional penalties and, for some offences, prison sentences.

The maximum penalties for individuals are fines up to $5,500 or a 12 month prison sentence, or both. For companies, a fine of $27,500 for each offence might apply and the company director will be held responsible. For offences that fall under the Criminal Code Act 1995, the courts can impose long custodial sentences as well as fines and other penalties. If you have been accused or charged with tax evasion or money laundering you will be in no doubt that you will need an extremely skilled criminal defence lawyer to help defend you from your charges and potential conviction by the Courts.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence and need advice or representation, please call one of our experienced criminal  lawyers.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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