Reporter accused of taking cash in blackmail conspiracy
Veteran television reporter Steve Barrett is accused of receiving up to $3000 cash for his alleged role in a blackmail conspiracy designed to reap $5 million from a group of alleged payroll fraudsters.
The NSW Supreme Court was told on Thursday Mr Barrett, with two co-accused Daniel Hausman and Daniel Rostankovski, was part of a joint criminal enterprise hatched in February 2017 to demand money from the fraudsters allegedly behind a large-scale tax fraud involving the son of the then ATO deputy commissioner.
Mr Barrett has pleaded not guilty to making an unwarranted demand with menaces with intent to obtain a gain using a threatened accusation that Adam Cranston, Jason Onley, Dev Menon and others were involved in serious indictable offences of fraud and money laundering.
The Crown case is that the alleged fraudsters, known as the Plutus Payroll, were engaged in siphoning off millions in PAYG tax and GST for themselves by contracting out the payroll tax responsibilities to second tier companies.
On the first day of Mr Barrett's trial, Crown prosecutor Trish McDonald in her opening statement told the jury they can expect to hear evidence during the trial gleaned from text messages, audio recordings, telephone intercepts, surveillance devices and search warrants.
Ms McDonald said among that evidence will be telephone intercepts of conversations in which Mr Hausman told Mr Rostankovski to tell the alleged fraudsters that he "Dan" knew who Adam Cranston's father was (then deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston) and he also knew the ex-producer of 60 Minutes (Mr Barrett) and he would use that connection to have "TV cameras out the front of his house".
There will be evidence heard that Mr Hausman gave Mr Barrett either $2000 or $3000 in cash at a meeting.
That was to allegedly secure his involvement in the plan and Mr Barrett later said in a phone call to Mr Hausman "if what you tell me is true we have a tiger by the tail".
The court was told there will be recordings played of a meeting attended by Mr Barrett with the alleged fraudsters at the offices of Clamenz Lawyers in Sydney where Mr Barrett told them he was a journalist of 39 years' experience and he was investigating a story about tax fraud, and if he went all the way with the story he might have to speak to then treasurer Scott Morrison and the Opposition.
It is also expected that the former national producer of Channel 9's A Current Affair, Grant Williams, will give evidence that Mr Barrett rang him on January 31, 2017 to tell him about a major scandal involving a tax fraud and one of the people was involved was the son of the deputy tax commissioner and ask if he was interested in running a story.
Mr Williams will give evidence that he said "of course" and Mr Barrett then told Mr Williams he would get back to him.
Mr Williams is expected to say he did not commission Mr Barrett to do the story and he did not hear from him again until May 2017.
The trial will continue on Friday.
Originally published as Reporter accused of taking cash in blackmail conspiracy