The factory at the centre of a huge fire spewing toxic smoke over large swathes of Melbourne is owned by an accountant recently targeted in massive raids by the tax office.
- The Footscray factory is owned by accountant Christopher James Baldwin, who was targeted in recent ATO raids
- The ATO said Mr Baldwin’s firm was raided as part of an investigation into “alleged phoenix activity and avoidance of tax”
- A Hells Angel, who is facing drug charges in SA, is linked to the company through which Mr Baldwin owns the factory
The ABC can also reveal that a Hells Angel facing charges in South Australia over a massive alleged drug importation was a director of the company through which the accountant owns the factory.
The fire at the factory at 420 Somerville Road, Tottenham, brought Melbourne’s western suburbs to a standstill on Thursday morning.
Authorities warned that the building contained asbestos. Residents were warned to stay indoors, and some schools closed.
The property is owned by Danbol Pty Ltd, whose sole director and shareholder is Shepparton accountant Christopher James Baldwin. Mr Baldwin did not reply to requests for comment on Friday morning.
One real estate agent who works in the area said the building was recently vacated, with a new tenant moving in two months ago. “What he is warehousing in there, I don’t know,” the agent said.
Mr Baldwin’s firm Baldwin Taxation and Advisory was recently raided by ATO officers investigating an alleged scheme that helped client companies evade paying income tax through a range of alleged mechanisms, including shifting assets and employees to other companies.
The raids, carried out by 250 ATO and Victoria Police officers, also targeted a Melbourne accounting firm, private homes and other premises.
At the time of the raids, the ATO said they were part of a “broad investigation into alleged phoenix activity and avoidance of tax”.
“We are examining a group of tax agents suspected of facilitating phoenix activity and promoting the avoidance of tax involving GST, income tax and the failure to remit pay-as-you-go withholding tax payments,” ATO Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Geale said.
“We suspect the agents have used phoenix techniques to assist clients to avoid paying tax on millions of dollars of income.”
Hells Angel Reginald George Roberts was director of Danbol Pty Ltd in 2011, prior to the company purchasing the property. Roberts is being held without bail in South Australia having been charged earlier this year over South Australia’s largest alleged ice importation.
Fire crews were still unable to get inside the building to determine the cause of the fire and could not say whether or not it was suspicious, incident controller Trent Curtin said.
“I’ve met with the owner and tenant today and we’ll be working with them over the coming days to transition arrangements so that they can take back control of the site,” Mr Curtin said.
“Unfortunately, the tenant and the owner were unable to give any information in relation to the cause of the fire.”