Peter Costello

Media Releases

Project Wickenby Arrests

NO.072

PROJECT WICKENBY ARRESTS

Three people have been arrested today by the Australian Crime Commission and charged with tax evasion offences.

Three company directors were arrested at the Southport Police Station on the Gold Coast and were charged with Conspiracy to Defraud the Commonwealth. It is alleged that between 1999 and 2005, the benefit that the trio received through defrauding the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) was $6.6 million.

Conviction on these charges carries jail terms of up to 10 years and fines totalling up to $110,000 each. Proceeds of Crime Action has also been used in respect to this specific investigation and $10million in assets are currently restrained.

“The charging of three directors of a Queensland company with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth is a significant step in this multi-agency project,” the Treasurer said.

“The ACC and its partner agencies have vigorously pursued promoters and participants allegedly involved in concealing substantial taxable income through falsifying documents and transactions. This particular case has involved extensive investigations in Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and China,” Senator Ellison said.

Project Wickenby is a multi-agency taskforce set-up in 2004, with funding of $305.1million over seven years, to investigate internationally promoted tax arrangements that allegedly involve tax avoidance or evasion, and in some cases large-scale money-laundering.

It is further evidence of the Government’s determination to defend the integrity of the Australian tax system. On 6 April 2006, laws came into effect to penalise promoters of tax avoidance or evasion schemes.

Project Wickenby is being managed at the cross-agency level, with the ATO being the lead agency. The five agencies involved are the ATO, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). This is the first time that these five agencies, supported by AUSTRAC, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Australian Government Solicitor, have brought their expertise and considerable powers together, to deal with tax avoidance and evasion.

When fully resourced, well over 350 officers from these agencies will be working on Project Wickenby, the majority from the Tax Office.

“Investigations are continuing into a number of similar complex cases with a view to laying criminal charges and taking proceeds of crime recovery action,” the Treasurer said.

MELBOURNE

20 July 2006

Media enquiries:
Renae Stoikos - Treasurer’s Office 03 9650 0244
Duncan Bremner - Minister Ellison’s Office 02 6277 7260

20 Jul 2006

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