Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has charged a 56-year-old man over a multi-million dollar offshore tax avoidance scheme.

Federal agents arrested the Queensland man yesterday afternoon soon after he arrived in Australia on a flight from Vanuatu.

The AFP will allege the man promoted an asset stripping scheme designed to leave Australian companies in a position unable to pay their tax liabilities.

The alleged fraud involved the promotion of tax avoidance through an intricate network of companies in Australia and Vanuatu.

The AFP investigation began after a referral from the Australian Tax Office, which is investigating offshore tax evasion schemes.

AFP National Manager Economic and Special Operations Warren Gray said the joint investigation has identified 69 companies from Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT as participants in the asset stripping arrangement, which involves tax fraud in excess of $10 million.

“This operation pre-dates Project Wickenby but it is another example of how the AFP, in concert with its Project Wickenby partners, continues to focus on arrangements involving offshore secrecy havens and money laundering, to ensure those involved pay their fair share of tax,” Commander Gray said.

Two men were arrested in May and are currently before the courts on charges relating to the scheme.

The man was bailed to appear at Maroochydore Magistrates Court on Thursday 14 August charged with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth under Section 86(2) of the Crimes Act 1914.

This offence carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $220,000.