The Australian government announced late last month that is has identified over 340 people that have unnamed Swiss bank accounts and allegedly have business relationships with Swiss banking officials known to have actively endorsed and enabled tax evasion and avoidance structures. The people, identified as part of an international investigation into tax evasion, are reportedly all Australian citizens.
“The fact that these accounts are unnamed means that by their very nature they are likely to have been established to hide the identity of the owner,” Australia’s Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer said in a statement last month. “Unfortunately, there are still those who believe they can dodge from their tax obligations and avoid detection by government agencies. The message from these investigations makes it clear that governments worldwide are shining a light on offshore tax evasion, and it’s only a matter of time before you’re in the spotlight.”
Going forward, the Australian government’s Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) will reportedly be interviewing the individuals identified along with bank employees and lawyers to ascertain whether the 340 people have failed to meet their tax obligations and whether they have been complicit in criminal activity.
It has been reported that roughly 23 of the people named have already come forward to admit to tax evasion under the Australian government’s DO IT program, which allows Australian citizens to report unreported financial activities. While the government has said that many of the individuals named have likely followed through on their tax obligations, others have likely not – especially given the inherently secret nature of Swiss bank accounts.
The government has said that while authorities are still working to sift through the information they have, the country can expect to see swift legal action taken against those who have failed to adhere to their responsibilities. Those found guilty of tax evasion are likely to face substantial financial penalties and potentially even jail time.
The SFCT has already made significant strides in cracking down on tax evasion. Since the taskforce’s establishment, it has already initiated 421 audits and collected liabilities amounting to $190 million. Moreover, four people have been sentenced and 25 cases are still pending, according to the government.
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