Serious financial crime has the potential to undermine the integrity of Australia’s economy and law enforcement activities and poses a significant threat to the Australian community, estimated to cost Australian taxpayers $15 billion every year.
That is why the Australian Government committed $127.6 million over four years to fund a new Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) to ensure Commonwealth financial crimes are disrupted and deterred.
The Taskforce has been operational since July 1 and as of today there are eight new matters currently under investigation involving serious financial crime.
Further, more than 580 tax audits have been instigated and more than $85 million in liabilities raised since 1 July this year.
Key operational priorities for the Taskforce over the first two years will include investigations into serious international tax evasion and criminality related to trusts and phoenix activity – when companies deliberately and repeatedly liquidate to avoid paying creditors, employee entitlements and taxes.
Building on the lessons of Project Wickenby, the taskforce is closing the net on those who are looking to seriously attack the fairness of our tax system.
The multi-agency Taskforce combines the intelligence and specialist capabilities of eight Commonwealth agencies to target serious and financial crimes including fraud, manipulation of the stock market and laundering of proceeds of crime.
The Taskforce will work closely with international partner agencies, governments and organisations around the world to remove wealth from criminal activity, prosecute facilitators and promoters of serious financial crime and deploy deterrent and preventative enforcement strategies.
Project Wickenby, which concluded in June 2015, resulted in 46 individuals convicted and sentenced for serious tax avoidance offences, raising more than $2.29 billion in liabilities, and more than $985 million recovered in outstanding revenue.
While Project Wickenby focused on tackling offshore tax evasion and crime, the Taskforce will have a broader remit to target emerging high-priority risks including the growing use of technology by professional money laundering syndicates and the increasing trend of sophisticated, organised crime groups targeting the Australian financial sector.
Criminal syndicates that exploit the Australian taxation system and defraud everyday Australians are increasingly using complex and sophisticated organisational structures, making them less recognisable and harder to detect.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring all individuals and companies are paying their fair share of tax and contributions to the economy, and will continue to target those who believe they are above the law.
The Taskforce is led by the Australian Federal Police, and also includes the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Crime Commission, the Attorney-General’s Department, AUSTRAC, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Australian Border Force.