News: Agreement cements close collaboration
Release Date: Thursday, August 12 2010, 03:30 PM
The AFP has signed a Memorandum of Understanding Head Agreement with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), helping to cement cooperation between the agencies in combating financial crimes which affect Australia.
The agreement was signed by AFP Commissioner Tony Negus and ATO Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo at the AFP’s new headquarters in Canberra. It establishes a framework for co-operation between the two agencies in relation to the investigation of taxation cases and related matters.
Commissioner Negus said this agreement will be supported by four subsidiary agreements covering the exchange of information, investigations, intelligence sharing and proceeds of crime. It is expected these agreements will be finalised in the next few months.
“This agreement emphasises the importance of close cooperation between the AFP and the ATO,” he said.
“It is important we have arrangements in place that improve the opportunities we have to undertake joint operational cooperation. This helps to enhance the whole-of-government approach towards the targeting and disruption of financial crimes which affect all Australians.”
The AFP’s primary role in project Wickenby is to act as the criminal investigation arm of the Project in matters affecting the Commonwealth, predominately in relation to serious fraud and money laundering.
Key targets for the AFP include organisers and facilitators of tax fraud and money laundering in known tax havens, as well as high-risk taxpayers and accountancy firms who utilise these schemes.
Project Wickenby aims to make Australia an unattractive destination for international tax avoidance and evasion schemes. The AFP helps to realise this objective through disrupting off-shore tax evasion schemes and deterring others from utilising them. Furthermore, it takes part in working groups to identify and advance ways in which Government agencies can more effectively work together, through its contribution to the Joint Strategic Intelligence Team.
In addition to this, the AFP also provides training to other agencies in relation to combating money laundering operations and recovering proceeds of crime.
Moreover, it supports regional cohesion and development through building expertise in preventing financial crimes. For example, the AFP hosts members of the Pacific Island police agencies on secondment, which provides them with the necessary experience in financial investigations.
Recently, the AFP, in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Department, hosted a workshop involving seventeen Pacific Island countries and China. The primary objective of the workshop was to strengthen working relationships between each nation and Australia’s Financial Investigations Units and Transnational Crime Units.
Commissioner Negus also spoke about Operation Devoir as an example of the success which can be achieved through joint agency partnerships. The investigation helped to identify and prevent serious non-compliance by companies in relation to paying GST.
In addition to this, the Commissioner also praised the work of all the agencies involved in Project Wickenby’s ongoing success, including recent convictions which have been handed down in the courts.
Achievements include the retention of more than $75 million in assets, $190 million collected in taxes and $803 million raised in tax liabilities.
As a result of the agreement, the AFP will now be able to acquire proceeds of crime in relation to ATO investigations. These new powers will complement the recent introduction of the Tax Laws Amendment Bill 2010.
Commissioner Negus also presented a plaque to ATO Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo to congratulate the ATO on its 100 year Centenary.