National

Sydney identity ‘faces years in jail’

By AAP Newswire

Sydney construction identity George Alex will remain in custody until at least Friday, more than two weeks after he was arrested and charged with leading a scheme that robbed $17 million from the taxpayer.

But prosecutors would like him to remain in prison longer, telling Central Local Court on Tuesday his associates could help him abscond before any trial begins.

The 49-year-old denies running the syndicate police say used labour-hire and payroll companies to withhold and launder more than $17 million in owed taxes.

Involving financial industry experts and former bankers, the scheme allegedly used elaborate "phoenix" activity, where a new company is created to replace a deliberately liquidated debt-ridden business in order to avoid paying tax, creditors and employee entitlements.

Alex was arrested on the Gold Coast during coordinated police raids across NSW, Queensland and ACT on July 21.

If released, he's an unacceptable risk of fleeing or interfering with witnesses, the Crown said on Tuesday.

The "strong" circumstantial case - backed by bank records, intercepted phone calls and various surveillance devices planted over the 18-month investigation - and the possibility of jail created a significant motivation to run.

Barrister Raelene Sharp also pointed to alleged threats made during secretly recorded calls.

"If convicted, Mr Alex faces a significant term of imprisonment," she said.

"Mr Alex's associates - and I use that term in terms of his networks broadly - provide him with the physical means to abscond."

The court heard Alex had had difficulty accessing his medication in custody and had been on a waitlist for a psychiatrist for more than a week.

His 11 co-accused have already been released from custody on bail and he was willing to submit to "significant and onerous" bail conditions, his barrister Craig Smith SC said.

"It's an entirely appropriate case for him to be granted strict bail," he said.

Alex is charged with conspiring to dishonestly cause the Commonwealth to lose money and dealing in crime proceeds worth more than $1 million.

Contesting the strength of the case, Mr Smith said the recorded phone call summaries did not get close to proving the dishonesty element of the first offence.

Alex didn't have a long criminal record and "everyone agrees" he was completely compliant when granted bail and then sentenced to an intensive corrections order over an unrelated offence, the lawyer said.

An offer of an undisclosed surety has been put forward by Alex's mother and another person, the court heard.

"Any perceived bail risk can be appropriately and adequately addressed by the conditions," Mr Smith said.

Magistrate Margaret Quinn is expected to deliver her decision sometime after Friday midday.