Panama Papers: Tax office investigating 800 Australians identified in financial record leak
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is investigating 800 Australian residents named in a massive leak of tax and financial records known as the Panama Papers.
- The ATO has obtained some of the leaked Panama Papers
- The tax office said 120 people have been linked to an associate offshore service provider in Hong Kong
- ABC analysis identified more than 1,000 Australian links in the leaked documents
The investigation follows the unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents from Panamanian Law Firm Mossack Fonseca, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and shared with media organisations around the world including the ABC’s Four Corners program.
The ABC has identified more than 1,000 Australian links in the data, which contains personal details including copies of the passports of hundreds of Australians.
Deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston told the ABC its information included some taxpayers who the ATO had previously investigated.
“But many and most haven’t come forward and we’re working through those and they include a number of high wealth individuals and we’re taking action on those cases,” he said.
Mr Cranston said it would take the ATO sometime to work through the data, but the investigation had already revealed up to 130 Australians using an intermediary in Hong Kong.
“You might have some domestic advisers in Australia who connect with a Hong Kong service provider who connect to a Panama legal firm,” Mr Cranston said.
“There’s a consistent characteristic around they’re often linked to foundations and complex structures.”
An ABC analysis has found 418 Australian individual passports in the documents linked to hundreds of companies through dozens of offshore service providers.
Mossack Fonseca uses offshore service providers, also known as “intermediaries” or “clients” to help incorporate companies.
These can be banks, law and accounting firms or individuals.
Mossack Fonseca says these intermediaries are the ones responsible for ensuring companies abide by the necessary laws.
The ABC has found many of the most popular clients used by Australians to incorporate companies through Mossack Fonseca are based in Hong Kong.
According to analysis by the ABC the client used most commonly by Australians is “Popular Corporate Service Limited”, a little-known Hong Kong firm.
The ABC understands the ATO has part of the Panama Papers data, which it received from international law enforcement bodies.
Mr Cranston said the data leak should serve as a warning to taxpayers.
“It’s very hard to hide offshore and not have your assets and incomes not declared in this country,” he said.
“Basically the message is don’t do it but if you have please come and speak to the tax office because … penalties will be reduced significantly.”
Mossack Fonseca has described the data leak as a “crime” and an “attack” on Panama.
You can watch ‘The Secrets of the Super Rich’ on Four Corners on ABC TV at 8.30pm tonight.