Bugged phone calls and conversations reveal how disgraced and infamous Kiwi businessman Mark Bryers became entangled in an alleged tax fraud and money laundering syndicate.
The 62-year-old was arrested in Queensland last Tuesday by a task force investigating an Australian organised criminal group and A$17.5 million (NZ$18.7m) tax fraud, allegedly being directed by underworld-connected construction boss George Alex.
A dozen people were arrested during the Gold Coast and Sydney raids by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), including the wife of a jailed drug king and former ANZ and Westpac employees.
Charged with intentionally dealing with proceeds of crime, money or property worth more than $1m, Bryers faces up to 25 years behind bars if convicted.
The former rich-lister is also charged with conspiring with the intention of dishonestly causing loss to the Australian Government, which carries a maximum 10-year term of imprisonment.
In New Zealand, Bryers is synonymous with the failure of his Blue Chip group, which collapsed in 2008 owing more than 2000 investors $84m. He was personally bankrupted a year later with debts of $230m and at Blue Chip's peak was found to be a big-spender at an Auckland brothel.
Now, court documents obtained by the Herald reveal how deep the Kiwi's connection is to "Operation Bordelon" - a joint AFP, Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Australian Securities and Investments Commission sting into Alex and his associates.
The task force alleges the group's tax-dodging labour hire structure was Bryers' idea, after he was first "employed by the syndicate in early 2019".
A 65-page statement of claim filed with the Southport Magistrates Court by the AFP alleges the Kiwi personally received A$1.92m from the fraud.
The documents also show the proceeds of the alleged conspiracy were used by Alex and his associates to purchase luxury items, finance a Gold Coast apartment, and fund their lavish lifestyles.
Prominent businessman on sex and corruption charges fails to alter bail
The luxury three-bedroom apartment was the syndicate's meeting house. But unbeknownst to the alleged conspirators, the task force had planted surveillance devices and were intercepting conversations between the group - including Bryers.
The Kiwi, court papers read, was introduced to the syndicate to resolve their outstanding tax debt to the ATO and transfer to a "new, more robust model of PAYGW [Pay As You Go Withholding] tax fraud" for the 2019-2020 financial year.
The new model, which Bryers allegedly proposed, was a franchisee approach to providing labour hire. It intended to place the tax liability risk on a new third tier of entities using fake directors of labour-hire firms which were actually controlled by the syndicate members.
Bryers first briefed the Sydney-based conspirators on this new structure at the Stamford Plaza Hotel at the city's airport in April 2019. The next day he travelled to Surfers Paradise to tell Alex of the scheme, the court papers allege.
Bryers used his "technical skills" and two associates, William Pahl and Lucas Connell, to implement his model and continue to perpetrate the fraud, documents show.
Throughout the 2019-2020 financial year, the alleged conspirators attempted to operate the multi-tier structure, with Alex having over-arching control and Bryers directing its implementation.
Bryers and Connell, a former business manager at an insolvency firm, believed the new system would generate A$5m per year for the conspirators, court papers read.
At one group meeting in Surfers Paradise during May last year, former Westpac employee Gordon McAndrew told Bryers: "You are giving us a blueprint on how to achieve what we want to achieve in a better way than we'd previously thought about and in a longer term the benefits are there."
The Kiwi met with Alex, who has connections with the outlaw Nomads motorcycle gang, again in Surfers Paradise during October last year.
"Before the others come in I just need to talk to you George. I need you to sit down and really listen to this. I have a cunning plan," Bryers said in a bugged conversation, according to the documents.
Alex replied: "I love a cunning plan."
Bryers continued: "What if I said to you, I could make sure you've got no entitlements to pay, no PAYG, and no GST, until 1 January?"
Alex laughed after he said: "That's what I want. Sorry, that's what we want."
Bryers carried on: "No payroll, no PAYG, no GST. The whole lot. Now between 1 April and 31 Dec[ember] there should be enough for you to have made during that time to basically bankroll my system."
It is alleged by the AFP that Bryers was proposing another method of diverting the PAYGW tax and GST which would make it more profitable for Alex to invest in Bryers' franchisee system, which at this stage was not yet fully implemented.
Investigators also point to conversations they say show Bryers was desperate to hide the scheme from law enforcement.
In one conversation, the Kiwi told Alex: "... I want to get to a point that if anybody gets asked about who owns, ultimately, this group of companies, that the Federals (AFP), the ATO, the such and such, can't get to the f***** truth."
During the 2019-2020 financial year, Bryers and Pahl continued to advise and implement the alleged tax fraud at the direction of Alex, which included Bryers travelling regularly to Surfers Paradise to brief the boss, court documents read.
Bryers, prosecutors allege, was also to oversee the liquidation of the payroll entities. He worked with his accountant to ensure inconsistencies with labour hire payslips due to the liquidation and phoenixing of entities did not alert the ATO.
The businessman also allegedly oversaw the use of offshore entities to protect the conspirators and obscure the true ownership of companies. Originally, the group intended to use an offshore entity in Hong Kong, however, they ultimately pursued Singapore because one of them was already a director of a fund management firm there.
From Kiwi rich-lister to alleged criminal connection
Following Blue Chip's collapse and being adjudged bankrupt, Bryers pleaded guilty in 2010 to 34 financial reporting charges.
He was fined $37,500 and ordered to complete 75 hours of community work by the Auckland District Court.
At Blue Chip's peak, Bryers' estimated personal wealth was listed at $70m on the NBR Rich List and during this time he was a frequent visitor to an Auckland brothel. He would sometimes spend thousands of dollars to block-book the venue and its women, a Herald On Sunday investigation revealed.
Bryers, under the name Mark Ryan, relocated to Australia and became involved with Northern Crest (formerly Blue Chip Financial Solutions), the Australian-registered parent of the Blue Chip group, and then with Talos Accounting Group.
Both companies were liquidated.
Talos, an aggregated accounting and financial services operation, collapsed in 2015 with some hallmarks of the Blue Chip failure.
Bryers, the son of one-test All Black Ronald Bryers, was last seen in New Zealand at the High Court in Auckland during March 2015 when he successfully gained a discharge from his bankruptcy.
Associate Judge Jeremy Doogue banned him from acting as a manager or director in New Zealand until 2022.
The judge also said it was not up to him to comment on whether it was desirable from the perspective of the Australian public for Bryers to be taking part in business across the ditch.