The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has been busy this week, partnering with its counterparts in the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Canada and the Netherlands to tackle international tax evasion believed to be facilitated by a financial institution based in Central America.
A series of investigations into this institution preceded the action, uncovering that products and services coming out of Central America may have been used by a number of clients across the globe to conceal and transfer wealth anonymously to evade tax obligations and launder the proceeds of crime.
This is the first major operational activity for the so-called Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, known more commonly as the J5, formed in mid-2018 to lead the fight against international tax crime and money laundering.
Australia’s representation on the team is led by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) Deputy Commissioner Will Day, who praised the success of the coordinated action in a statement on Thursday.
“Today’s action shows the power of our combined efforts in tackling global tax crime, fraud and evasion,” Mr Day said.
“This multi-agency, multi-country activity should degrade the confidence of anyone who was considering an offshore location as a way to evade tax or launder the proceeds of crime.”
Aussie evaders under the watchful eye of ACIC
The ATO has commenced investigations into Australia-based clients of this institution who are suspected to have undeclared income, with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) playing a supportive intelligence role.
“Never before have criminals been at such risk of being detected as they are now. Our increased collaboration, data analytics and intelligence sharing mean there is no place worldwide you can hide your money to avoid contributing your obligations,” Mr Day said.
The coordinated day of action involved evidence, intelligence and information collection activities such as search warrants, interviews and subpoenas.
According to the ATO, significant evidence was obtained, as a result of which further criminal, civil and regulatory action is expected to arise in each country.