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Australia Carries Out Panama Papers Tax Investigations

by Mary Swire,, Hong Kong

08 September 2016

In response to analysis of data leaked as part of the Panama Papers, Australia's Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) has carried out a "week of action" against those suspected of tax evasion.

The SFCT made 15 unannounced access visits in Victoria and Queensland, and executed three search warrants. In addition, more than 100 taxpayers will be contacted and advised that they are the subject of compliance action, and that further criminal investigations have not been ruled out.

The SFCT was launched in July 2015. It is led by the Australian Federal Police and includes representatives from the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Australian Border Force.

Revenue Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said: "Our authorities have built a profile of more than 1,000 Australians identified in the leak, and are reviewing intelligence provided to us by other tax jurisdictions. We have detected taxpayers and advisers linked to tax evasion, illicit funds flows, and corruption."

She told a press conference: "A number of these Australian taxpayers involve high wealth individuals. They also involve professional facilitators which includes those people who are accountants and lawyers. The information has revealed significant taxation evasion arrangements that promoters have put in place for their clients. Some are very, very complex and have multiple layers of offshore entities, fake shareholders, and other methods to disguise the ultimate owners of these accounts and funds."

"Where offshore structures have been used to evade tax, avoid corporate responsibility, disguise and hide unexplained wealth, facilitate criminal activity, and launder the proceeds of crime, the Australian Taxation Office will work with international law enforcement partners to share intelligence, investigate, and ultimately raise tax assessments against those individuals and ensure that they are prosecuted."

AUSTRAC has determined that the amount of funds flow linked to the Australian entities identified in the Panama Papers is over AUD2.5bn (USD1.9bn).

As part of the SFCT's response to the Panama Papers, AUSTRAC has been engaging with domestic and international banks to build a picture of offshore service providers as they relate to Australian individuals and entities. It has also been working "to build resilience against typologies used for tax evasion, money laundering, and other illegal activities exposed through the Panama Papers," the Government said.

TAGS: individuals | compliance | tax | tax compliance | tax avoidance | law | Australia | enforcement | offshore | Panama | corporate responsibility | Tax | Tax Evasion

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