6 September 2016

No one hides outside the tax system


Joint media release with
Michael Keenan
Minister for Justice
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter Terrorism

Tax criminals have nowhere to hide following investigations by the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) as part of a 'week of action’ in response to tax evasion and crime identified in the Panama papers.

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

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O'Dwyer MP said Australia has led a coordinated response to investigating the data, through the Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan’s role as JITSIC Chair.

“This week of action is the result of months of collaboration with domestic agencies to share intelligence and information in relation to individuals named in the data leak,” Minister O'Dwyer said.

“Our authorities have built a profile of more than 1,000 Australian taxpayers 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.

“While offshore structures and trusts do have a genuine purpose for many individuals and corporations, we believe that many of these structures and trusts are being used to evade tax, avoid corporate responsibility, disguise and hide unexplained wealth, facilitate criminal activity, and to launder the proceeds of crime.

“People who avoid paying the right amount of tax must understand there is no place to hide. The information in the Panama Papers is just one element that we use to piece together a full picture of the true extent of a person’s tax affairs,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP said the reach of serious financial crime is a web that is multi-layered and pervasive.

“To counter this, we need a response that is just as far-reaching and intricate. Through the SFCT, Australia is well placed to deal with this type of behaviour and draw on the strong systems in place to detect and track down those who chose to break the law.

"The AFP is playing an integral role in the investigation of serious criminal offences identified through the Panama Papers. As part of this week of action the AFP has executed a search warrant on a residential premise in Queensland in relation to allegations of serious tax evasion, fraud and money laundering", Minister Keenan said.

The AFP is currently leading 12 SFCT joint criminal investigations into serious financial crime.

As part of the SFCT 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. AUSTRAC has also been working to educate the banking sector. AUSTRAC has been working to build resilience against typologies used for tax evasion, money laundering and other illegal activities exposed through the Panama Papers.

Its work has been critical in identifying professional facilitators, including accountants and lawyers, who have facilitated the creation of offshore structures and vehicles to conceal and move illicit wealth.

From the more than 1,000 Australians identified in the Panama papers, AUSTRAC has determined that the amount of funds flow linked to these entities is over $2.5 billion.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has been working closely with the ATO, AFP and other partners across the SFCT to analyse data received relating to the Panama Papers.

ASIC is also taking part in the week of action, with a continued focus on gatekeepers including company directors and officers, auditors, insolvency practitioners and business advisors, and in particular, responding to poor gatekeeper culture and conduct. Gatekeepers underpin the integrity of our financial system and will continue to ensure that they adhere to the high standards required by law.

Since the SFCT was established more than 650 compliance activities are underway or completed, and liabilities have been raised in excess of $130 million. Four people have received custodial sentences following prosecution and there are currently 19 matters in progress.

The Coalition Government is committed to ensuring that corporates and individuals pay their fair share of tax.