Media Release: Three charged in joint tax evasion and money laundering investigation

Release Date: Wednesday, October 16 2013, 08:16 AM

This is a joint media release between the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Taxation Office.

As part of Project Wickenby, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has charged three men with tax and money laundering offences relating to the transfer of $30 million into Australia.

The AFP and the Australian Tax Office (ATO) executed nine search warrants yesterday, in the Sydney suburbs of Chatswood and Point Piper as well as in Sydney and Melbourne CBD. One warrant was also executed in Glenquarry near Mittagong.

A 65-year-old Chatswood man and a 69-year-old Point Piper man were subsequently arrested at their places of residence, and a 69-year-old Belgian National was arrested at Sydney International Airport.

It will be alleged in court that the people arrested established a complicated network of offshore companies which were used to conduct business in Australia.

Profits derived from this activity were retained offshore, untaxed. The profits were then transferred back to Australian companies controlled by the offenders and disguised as loans, which it will be alleged fraudulently reduced the tax liabilities of those companies.

As a result, the people arrested received a benefit of approximately $4.9 million over a five year period.
Project Wickenby brings together resources from the ATO, AFP, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac), Australian Government Solicitor and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
ATO Deputy Commissioner Greg Williams said the taskforce demonstrates what can be achieved when governments work together to prevent tax avoidance.

“Today’s outcome is a warning to people who abuse tax secrecy havens. We will hold tax cheats accountable,” Deputy Williams said.

AFP Manager Criminal Assets Matt Rippon said the arrests were the result of a well-established joint agency effort with partner agencies under the Project Wickenby banner.

“The AFP continues to work closely with partner agencies such as the ATO to protect the Australian economy from money laundering schemes and the criminal abuse of our tax system,” Commander Rippon said.

“The arrests made today are another example of a collaborative commitment to targeting international money laundering activity regardless of the complexity of such schemes and the efforts of offenders in disguising their activities off-shore.

The men have been charged with the following:

  •   Conspiracy to dishonestly cause a loss, or to dishonestly cause a risk of loss, to a third person, namely the Commonwealth, contrary to subsection 135.4(5) of the Criminal Code1995 (Cth).

  •   Conspiracy to deal with property intending that the property, namely $30,000,000, would become an instrument of crime, contrary to section 400.3(1) and section 11.5 of the Criminal Code1995 (Cth).

The offences carry maximum penalties of 10 and 25 years imprisonment respectively.

All three people are set to appear before Sydney Central Local Court today (16 October 2013).

Enquiries are ongoing and further arrests and operational activity is likely.

Media enquiries:
AFP National Media (02) 6131 6333
ATO Media (02) 6216 1901