How bankrupt building boss bought beachfront property
It was a blueprint on how to buy a luxury beachfront property when you're bankrupt.
Construction figure George Alex told his mates he liked the sound of living in an extravagant apartment overlooking the waves breaking off the Surfers Paradise beach strip, according to documents tendered in court.
So much so that he allegedly set to work purchasing a $1.8 million three-bedroom apartment in the Gold Coast's Allunga building, which enjoys uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean across the road, and is just a stone's throw to the party strip on Cavill Ave.
But there were two problems Alex needed to overcome before he could finalise the purchase.
The first was that the property couldn't be in his name because the Australian Taxation Office bankrupted him in 2011, meaning any asset he owned would be seized by his trustee to repay his debts.
The second was how he could use a portion of the $17 million, which police allege he stole as the head of a sophisticated tax fraud syndicate, to pay for the property without the authorities noticing.
What followed was a complex maze of money transfers between people, companies and foreign countries that Alex allegedly used in an attempt to throw investigators off the scent and fulfil his dream of a beachside pad and a Queensland tan.
All up seven people and eight companies across two continents were used in an attempt to disguise the 49-year-old's trail of allegedly stolen cash.
But it wasn't to be.
An 18-month investigation known as Operation Bordelon - led by the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office - were one step ahead of the alleged syndicate, according to documents tendered in the Queensland Supreme Court.
Police allege Alex led an all-star cast including construction identities and finance workers to steal $17 million in PAYG tax.
The syndicate allegedly performed legitimate work by providing labour hire to construction projects but then used a multi tiered company structure to siphon the PAYG tax overseas to be laundered and returned to them rather than paying the government.
Investigators followed the money trail and even planted a recording device inside the apartment after Alex bought it and recorded him and other syndicate members allegedly planning the tax fraud.
Alex was charged with dealing with more than $1 million in the proceeds of crime and conspiring to cause a loss.
Investigators were also tapping the phones of Alex and his alleged fraud conspirators as he set them to work to buy his dream home.
According to the court documents, Alex noticed the three-bedroom Hanlan St property was for sale for about $1.8 million on May 17, 2019.
Alex made a series of phone calls to Gordon McAndrew, a 58-year-old former Westpac employee who has been charged with conspiracy and allegedly ordered him to purchase the property.
According to the documents, police allege McAndrew established a company to buy the property, AGIM Holdings, of which he was the director. This would allegedly "obscure" Alex as the true owner.
On April 4, 2019, McAndrew was allegedly captured on a phone tap telling another man accused of being part of the tax fraud that he was tasked to buy the property because he was a "cleanskin".
That day, police also allege they captured two more of Alex's foot-soldiers, long time friend Pasquale Loccisano and ex ANZ Bank manager Lindsay Kirschberg arranging to transfer almost $600,000 to another company known as Pasloc Group to be used for the property purchase.
Police allege the money was part of the $17 million in stolen PAYG tax money that had been laundered through a Singaporean company known as Stanton Oxford Funds Management.
The following day, $205,000 was transferred through three companies allegedly linked to Alex's minions - Scottish Pacific, GHR Consolidated and D & B Plant Hire.
On April 12, the money was then paid as a deposit for the property to the selling agent, Harcourt Coastal.
The next step was sourcing a loan for the rest of the payment.
Shortly after the deposit was paid, Alex and Loccisano were recorded talking about sourcing the remaining funds.
On April 16, McAndrew allegedly used his banking know-how to arrange a loan through a mortgage broker.
The loan was secured by May 15, and McAndrew contacted the real estate agent to seal the deal, but only on the condition of a one day settlement, court documents said.
The director of the Singaporean based Stanton Oxford Funds Management was 50-year-old Cheryl Rostron, who is also Loccisano's wife.
On May 15, Rostron transferred just over $1.3 million from the Singapore based company to the Australian based company, Adelphi Finance, the sole director of which was Kirschberg, court documents said.
Two days later, the cash shuffle was on again with $715,000 moved between four companies allegedly associated with Alex's crew, with the money finally landing in the Adelphi finance account.
Kirschberg then attended the ANZ Bank at Hornsby and arranged for a bank cheque for just over $1.7 million to be drawn at ANZ Surfers Paradise from the Adelphi Finance Account, court documents said.
Kirschberg then allegedly sent an SMS to Alex: "I spent all our money :)."
Property records for the Hanlan St apartment show very little with the owner's name, the sale price and the sale date not disclosed.
Authorities seized the property last month using laws allowing them to freeze assets suspected of being the proceeds of crime following an application to the Queensland Supreme Court.
Days later, Alex and 11 other people were charged over the alleged tax fraud scheme.
Originally published as How bankrupt George Alex bought beachfront property