16 September 2015

Additional divestment of illegally owned properties


This media release announces that the Treasurer has ordered the sale of five residential properties unlawfully held by foreign nationals.

Today I am pleased to announce that I have ordered the sale of five additional residential properties unlawfully held by foreign nationals.

The properties are located in Ardross (in Perth), Elizabeth Bay (in Sydney), Underdale (in Adelaide), Stretton (in Brisbane) and Labrador (on the Gold Coast).

The purchase prices of the properties range in value from $265,000 to $8.1 million.

The foreign investors involved either purchased established property without Foreign Investment Review Board approval, or had approval but their circumstances changed meaning they were breaking the rules.

The investors linked to the five properties voluntarily came forward to take advantage of the amnesty I announced in May. They now have 12 months to sell the properties, rather than the normal three month period, and will not be referred for criminal prosecution.

Since transferring residential real estate compliance functions to the Australian Taxation Office in May, over 3,000 pieces of information relating to suspected breaches have come to light via data matching with third party sources including the Foreign Investment Review Board, Immigration, AUSTRAC and state and territory land title offices.

Through the information provided by the public, together with our own enquiries, we now have 481 cases under active investigation.

I expect more divestment orders will be announced in the future and once again warn foreign investors in residential real estate that they must comply with Australian law.

Time is running out for foreign investors to voluntarily come forward if they have illegally purchased existing residential real estate.

They have until 30 November 2015 to come to us before we come to them.

They will still be forced to sell the properties if they are found to be in breach of the laws, but they will not be referred for criminal prosecution.

Australia’s foreign investment policy for residential real estate is designed to increase Australia’s housing stock, but those who break the rules and purchase established property illegally are doing so to the detriment of all Australians.

Unlike the previous Government we are determined to enforce the rules and, where appropriate, make them even tighter.

Last month I introduced legislation into Parliament to ensure that the reporting requirements, enforcement and penalty regimes for foreign investors who break the rules are stricter and more significant. These laws are being debated in the House of Representatives today.

These new penalties are designed to ensure that no one should be able to profit from breaking the rules.