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Australia Boosts Funding For Operation Wickenby

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

09 February 2006

Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello has announced that the government will be allocating an additional A$305 million (US$225 million) over the next 6 years to fund the ongoing multi-agency operation designed to crack down on offshore tax schemes and fraud.

Codenamed ‘Operation Wickenby', the campaign has over the last six months pooled the collective resources of the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, to uncover and punish those promoting and using offshore tax schemes.

In yesterday's announcement, Costello explained that those suspected of fraud and fiscal crime will be brought to book under a number of statutes, for example: tax avoidance under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936; false and misleading statements under the Taxation Administration Act 1953; defrauding the Commonwealth under the Crimes Act 1914; obtaining a financial advantage by deception under the Criminal Code 1995; and confiscation of criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crimes Act 2002.

According to Costello, the latest in a succession of initiatives to clamp down on tax evasion will "ensure the integrity of Australia's revenue system".

Over the past four years, the government has placed much emphasis on enforcing the tax laws, allocating A$173 million to enforce business compliance, $326 million on a range of taxation and superannuation compliance activities, and A$28 million on additional revenue compliance activities on import duties and goods and services tax assessments.

Australia also recently hosted the OECD sponsored 2005 Global Forum on Taxation, the principal forum for progressing efforts towards effective exchange of information between countries on criminal and civil tax matters.

It is also advancing towards the completion of a network of bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements with offshore jurisdictions.

The first of these agreements was signed with Bermuda in November 2005.

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