The ATO has confirmed it will be analysing the Pandora Papers to identify any possible Australian links.
Data amounting 2.94 terabytes, including 11.9 million records exposing the offshore business structures used by over 330 politicians, 130 Forbes billionaires, celebrities, royal family members and religious leaders to hide their affairs from the authorities, have been leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with a consortium numbering over 600 journalists worldwide.
Among the implicated individuals, alongside the King of Jordan, former British prime minister Tony Blair and Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, is Westpac director Steven Harker, as reported by The Australian Financial Review – a member of the consortium.
Responding to the trove of private financial documents hitting front pages across the world on Monday, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) confirmed in a statement that it is “aware” that the ICIJ is “reporting they have released data referred to as the Pandora Papers”.
“We will certainly look at this data set and compare it with the data we already have to identify any potential connections,” ATO deputy commissioner and Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) chief Will Day said.
Mr Day said the ATO has strong international partnerships, as well as treaties and agreements, that enable a collaborative approach to identifying and addressing international tax evasion and crime.
“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,” Mr Day warned.
The most recent project by the ICIJ, the Pandora Papers data leak comes from 14 entities around the world that give professional services to wealthy individuals and corporations seeking to incorporate shell companies, trusts, foundations and other entities in low-or no-tax jurisdictions.
The ICIJ confirmed that the files reveal the deepest financial secrets of hundreds of individuals from influential politicians to pop stars such as Elton John and Ringo Starr.
According to the AFR, Mr Harker is implicated through his Samoa-based superannuation fund, which is reportedly administered by a boutique business entangled in tax-avoidance schemes.
It is just one in a group of over 400 Australian entities detailed in the papers.
Commenting on the apparent involvement of a large number of Australians in a series of sizable wrongdoings, Mr Day explained that there are “a range of legitimate reasons” that someone may have 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.
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