8 August 2015

Statement: Further divestment of illegally owned property


This media release discusses current foreign investment issues.

Australia welcomes foreign investment and Australia needs foreign investment but, at all times, foreign investors must comply with our laws.

Today I announce that I have ordered the sale of six residential properties unlawfully held by foreign nationals.

The foreign nationals currently live in four different countries.

The five different orders relate to six established properties, with one investor owning two properties.

One investor owns two properties that are in Kewdale, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia.

A further investor owns a property in Eight Mile Plains, a suburb on the outskirts of Brisbane.

There are three investors in NSW that have been ordered to sell their properties in Eastwood, Fairfield and Mosman which are suburbs of Sydney.

The purchase prices of the properties range in value from $152,000 to $1.86 million.

Some of the five investors have purchased property with Foreign Investment Review Board approval, but their circumstances have changed and they have failed to comply with the divestment requirements.

Some have simply broken the rules by purchasing a property without approval and done so against the law.

The investors linked to the five divestments 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 2,000 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 462 cases under active investigation.

I expect more divestment orders will be announced in the not too distant future.

I 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.

I will be introducing legislation into Parliament in the next two weeks that will ensure that the reporting requirements, enforcement and penalty regimes for foreign investors who break the rules are stricter and more significant.

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