THE OWNER and a general manager of one of Launceston’s biggest companies Braaap Wholesale Pty Ltd have been charged with fraud related offences following an eight-month New South Wales police investigation.
Owner, founder and chief executive Brad Smith, 28, and his Launceston general manager Toby Wilkin, 33, were this week charged with four counts of fraud and one count of deal in proceeds of crime knowingly conceal.
NSW detectives will allege the duo had a joint criminal enterprise that saw up to 85 ST-250 model motorcycles “rebirthed” and resold – 35 of which were allegedly sold in NSW.
Detectives will allege Mr Smith and Mr Wilkin were part of a “syndicate” to scratch off and replace the serial numbers belonging to the “Cafe Racer” motorcycles, owned by a NSW company.
On Wednesday, detectives – as part of NSW Police’s Strike Force Ologhlen – carried out simultaneous raids on Braaap Wholesale Pty Ltd’s Launceston, Hobart and Melbourne stores.
A punch stamp set, compliance labels, computers, and documentation was seized during the raids and Mr Wilkin, who was found by detectives at the Cimitiere Street store, was taken to the Launceston police station about 11.45am.
He was charged on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Smith – a high-profile Tasmanian entrepreneur – was charged on Thursday morning in Melbourne, after flying into the state from a speaking engagement in Western Australia.
They will face court in Sydney next month.
The charges come after Fairfax Tasmania revealed the company was hit with federal government suspensions late last month for "non-safety related conformance issues".
The suspensions are for Identification Plate Approvals on four motorcycle models sold by the company.
The suspensions could prevent the company from importing and selling future shipments of stock.
All vehicles must be fitted with identification plating before they can be legally registered for sale.
Five suspensions were initially enforced by the federal Infrastructure Department, but one was lifted earlier this month.
The suspensions currently in place affect the company's Moto 3, Urban, Street Superlite 50 and Street Superlite 125 models.
The fifth suspensions had affected Braaap Wholesale Pty Ltd's ST-250 model.
Mr Smith said earlier this month the suspensions related to a national recall last month of dozens of the company's motorcycles.
The recall notice - issued by the company - said the bikes were being recalled for safety reasons.
NSW Police Property Crime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Murray Chapman, praised the work of detectives during the long-running investigation.
“NSW Police Force conducts regular investigations into organised vehicle theft and rebirthing to combat illegal activities, where industry lose out and the vehicles put the lives of innocent road users at risk,” he said.
“We will continue to work closely with law enforcement colleagues across Australia, and other agencies, to ensure offenders are identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Detective Superintendent Chapman said the police work that led to the arrests was an “unyielding effort”.
He alleged the “rebirthing effort” was a “sophisticated and carefully-orchestrated” syndicate.
“This was an extensive and complex investigation, and all police involved have done an outstanding job,” he said.
“As always, we would like to thank the community for their support and continue to encourage anyone with information concerning motorcycle or vehicle rebirthing to contact Crime Stoppers.
“If you want to, you can contact us anonymously. We don’t need to know who you are; all we need is the information you have to hand.”
During their inquiries, Strike Force investigators were assisted by Victoria Police, Tasmania Police, Australian Border Force, and Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.
The investigation by Strike Force Ologhlen continues.
Police are urging anyone with information about motorcycle re-birthing to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/
Information provided will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
Braaap Wholesale Pty Ltd is a four-time Australian retail business of the year.
Mr Smith is a member of the Australian Reserve Bank advisory board.