Local eyes on Pandora details
The ATO will review details exposed in this week’s Pandora Papers leak.
A trove of secret documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has revealed the secret tax affairs of the super wealthy and famous.
Around 400 Australians appear in the papers, which have raised questions of transparency about the ownership of Australian assets by non-residents, and disclosure by Australian residents of assets held overseas.
The files reveal secret offshore holdings of more than 130 billionaires. It also outlines a network of 14 firms serving bankers, large political donors, arms dealers, international criminals and pop stars, including Elton John and Ringo Starr.
The leak has shed light on the affairs of the rich and famous, including the story of an alleged girlfriend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who reportedly had a child with Mr Putin before purchasing a luxury home in Monaco.
Some of the leaked documents contained in the data came from local finance firm Asiaciti, which was established by Sydney accountant Graeme Briggs. There is no suggestion that Mr Briggs was involved in any wrongdoing.
Asiaciti says its offices have passed third-party audits for anti-money laundering.
Another local, Westpac director Steven Harker, has had to defend his use of a Samoan superannuation fund set up by one of the advisory houses at the centre of the Pandora Papers.
Mr Harker is a member of Westpac’s legal, regulatory and compliance committee, the audit committee and remuneration committee.
Westpac says it conducts extensive compliance and regulatory checks before appointing directors, and vets them on an ongoing basis.
Other Australians named in the data include senior figures from the finance and property industries.
The ATO says it will be “analysing the information to identify any possible Australian links”.
ATO Deputy Commissioner and Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) chief Will Day issued a statement saying the ATO does not rely on data leaks to do its job, but it would still review the trove of documents.
“We will certainly look at this data set and compare it with the data we already have to identify any potential connections,” Mr Day said.
However, just being named in the leak is not evidence of tax evasion or crime. Many of the activities and behaviours outlined in the Pandora Papers are perfectly legal.
“There are a range of legitimate reasons that someone may have for an offshore bank account or structure. We know most Australians do the right thing. However, there are some who attempt to hide their ownership interests or financial misdoings through offshore arrangements,” Mr Day said.
“The message is clear for those who try to cheat the system – your secrets are no longer safe, and you can expect to feel serious consequences for your actions. No complicated money trail is too difficult for us to unravel.
“From the very first data leak, we responded quickly through the Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC).
“JITSIC brings together 42 national tax administrations that have committed to more effective and efficient ways to deal with tax avoidance and evasion.”