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Secret AFP move to freeze assets of 58 people in hunt for missing millions

More than half of the $165 million stolen by the tax fraud syndicate allegedly led by the son of a tax office chief will never be recovered, authorities believe.

Fairfax Media can reveal that the Australian Federal Police have made a secret application to the NSW Supreme Court to freeze the assets of 58 people connected to the alleged scam that unravelled in spectacular fashion on Thursday.

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ATO boss charged over tax fraud

Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston will be charged in connection with an alleged $165 million tax fraud syndicate.

Seven people have been charged with running the alleged racket including Adam and Lauren Cranston, the children of Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston.

Police allege the syndicate took control of a payroll company, Plutus, that serviced large corporate clients. They then sub-contracted payroll services out to second tier companies with phoney "straw directors" and siphoned off Pay As You Go tax repayments.

The seventh co-conspirator, Plutus' manager Simon Anquetil, was granted bail on Friday as further details emerged about the largest tax fraud investigation in Australian history.

Police have so far seized assets worth about half of the $165 million amassed in less than a year by the group.

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On Tuesday, the AFP asked Justice Elizabeth Fullerton to hear their application for further asset freezes in a closed court and without giving notice to any of the 58 people affected so as to prevent the alleged ringleaders being tipped off.

The court agreed to place a restraining order on hundreds of properties and other assets on the basis they are suspected as being the proceeds of crime.

Justice Fullerton agreed to hear the order ex-parte giving the imminent synchronisation of the execution of a number of search warrants and arrest of suspected offenders and some of their close associates.

A non-publication order was also made to protect the identity of a source of some of the incriminating information gathered to arrest and charge Michael Cranston. He and a number of others will be ordered to attend an examination by authorities.

Justice Fullerton said there was electronic evidence to show some of the parties had already attempted to "engage in structured dissembling" of the scheme.

Among the items already seized by police are 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

Several racing cars belonging to Synep Racing Group, run by Adam Cranston and named after the company he established to run the alleged fraud, were taken.

A small collection of watches owned by Mr Cranston were worth $500,000 alone and one Porsche Cayenne bought in January had a price tag of $324,000.

More than $15 million was also seized from about 100 personal and business bank accounts.

However, sources told Fairfax Media that they believed about half of the estimated $165 million in unpaid tax obligations will never be recovered.

Some money is suspected of being sent offshore and laundered through an unwitting property development company based in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

The explosive allegations emerged just two days after Michael Cranston, who spearheaded much of the ATO's efforts on high-level tax avoidance, commended a five-year jail sentence given to a NSW woman convicted of tax fraud.

In a press release issued on Monday, he said tax refund fraud is not a victimless crime.

"Refund fraud cheats the whole community," he said. "People should realise it's only a matter of time before they're caught."

He is now set to be charged with abusing public office after allegedly looking up restricted ATO information on audits and garnishee orders involving his son Adam's companies.

On Friday, Treasurer Scott Morrison slapped down suggestions from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten that the investigation could jeopardise other ATO investigations such as the so-called 'Panama Papers' investigation into people who use tax havens.

"These are intemperate comments from the leader of the opposition," he said. "The government has shown that no agency and no one is above the law. We have resourced the AFP to do their job and that's exactly what they are doing."