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Today’s Top Headlines

Major Australian Lender Up Against Project Wickenby

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

30 December 2010

Australia’s third-biggest lender, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ), is trying to stop the Australian Tax Office (ATO) accessing its customer records in Vanuatu as part of the Government’s Project Wickenby. The ATO signed a tax information agreement with Vanuatu in April which gave it more ability to track offshore account holders.

Project Wickenby is a whole-of-government taskforce set up in 2006 to investigate tax avoidance, tax evasion and large-scale money laundering. Under Project Wickenby, the investigating agencies, which include the tax office and the Australian Crime Commission, have identified AUD935m in taxes owing, and have recovered AUD513m in outstanding taxes. The Project has been working in Vanuatu for some time.

ANZ is seeking guidance from the courts about its obligations to comply with the Tax Office’s request to access the 13,000 ANZ customer accounts in Vanuatu. The bank, which has the largest operation in the island out of Australia’s four major banks, believes that the release of customer data would breach Vanuatu criminal law and put its license to operate in the country at risk.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series, examining in depth the situation of offshore transparency and secrecy in a number of the most prominent jurisdictions, is available in the Lowtax Library at and a description of the report can be seen at
TAGS: court | tax | offshore confidentiality | law | banking | Australia | Vanuatu | offshore | New Zealand

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