Wickenby Investigation Backs Off

Australian Wickenby Tax Investigation now under the spotlight as it has been forced to back off.
Paul Hogan
Paul Hogan
Sept. 30, 2010 - PRLog -- In February 2004 a laptop computer, belonging to Philip Egglishaw of Strachans, a Swiss accounting firm, which organized off shore tax, was accidentally included in a raid on a Melbourne hotel room.

This was start of the much discussed $300 million war on money laundering and tax fraud, by the Australian Crime Commission, (ACC), securities regulators and police, identified as Operation Wickenby.

Approximately 500 Australians were to be caught up in the Wickenby net, which was to recover hundreds of millions of dollars, in unpaid taxes, by high-profile Australians, who had used tax havens such as the Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.

Those under investigation included Paul Hogan and artistic collaborator John Cornell, rock tycoon Glenn Wheatley, cricketers Shane Warne and Allan Border and a number of others.

All had allegedly, directly or indirectly, used Strachan’s services. There have been eleven arrests, but only Wheatley has been convicted, for evasion of tax of little over $300,000.

Many say the operation has recovered much less than it has cost. Wickenby is struggling to find victims six years later.

The Australian Taxation Office recently, gave way to pressure and ended Paul Hogan's two-week detention as a ‘prisoner in paradise’, permitting him to leave Australia.

Hogan stood up to the ATO following The Daily Telegraph reporting he'd been served with a Departure Prohibition Order the night prior of his mother's funeral.

The case against Vanuatu-based Robert Agius, charged of masterminding a $100 million money-laundering scheme, was formally dropped in the NSW Supreme Court, in the second Wickenby backdown.

Serious questions are being asked about whether or not Wickenby has achieved anything. Private tax consultant, Chris Seage, a former senior ATO auditor, said the Hogan controversy has refocused attention on Wickenby's performance.

With his own audit on Operation Wickenby, Seage has turned the tables, pointing to a $112 million black hole. "They spent $305 million on Wickenby until June 30 2010, but only collected $193 million cash". He has asked for a full investigation by the Federal Auditor-General.

"Who audits the tax office?" he asked, attacking the ATO figure that states the operation has raised "liabilities", or tax assessments issued, of $855 million, in spite of only netting $193 million in cash. "That is a $660 million discrepancy the government does not explain."

Serge asks whether the ends justified the means given the "frightening" and "draconian" methods used by the ATO and ACC? "They can compel you to answer questions, freeze bank accounts and other assets, detain you in qmffc Australia ... under ACC laws it is a crime to tell your wife or even your psychologist you are under investigation."

The ATO refused to speak on the claims that the Wickenby Operation is a financial failure.

Tax Commissioner Michael d'Ascenzo said "Wickenby is about protecting honest taxpayers and holding those to account who engage in this sort of illegal behavior. Wickenby isn't going away any time soon."

For more information about "Wickenby Investigation Backs Off", visit website http://www.tropicpost.com/operation-wickenby-backs-down/

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