Wickenby: a lasting legacy
A laptop seized in a raid on a Melbourne hotel room in 2004 set off a chain of events resulting in the largest tax evasion investigation in Australia’s history – Project Wickenby. Now, 10 years on, the project is formally coming to a close, leaving a legacy that will live on.
Here we catch up with the heads of the partner agencies to learn what they think is the lasting legacy of Wickenby and how that will be used to continue the fight against tax crime in to the future.
When I joined the ATO as Commissioner in 2013, Project Wickenby was in its sixth year and was very highly regarded, both in Australia and abroad, as a model of how to operate an effective cross-agency taskforce. Cooperation with law enforcement agencies and international governments and organisations has greatly improved, proving we can be more innovative, agile and responsive – not only to the threats of tax crime but also in how the government operates more broadly.
Australian Taxation Office
Project Wickenby has shown the benefits of taking a coordinated Commonwealth approach to protect the integrity of the Australian financial and regulatory systems. This coordinated approach has resulted in unprecedented international cooperation in a strategy against offshore secrecy havens and provides a future model for Commonwealth initiatives combating serious financial crime.
The ACC is proud to have provided key intelligence and analysis to support the outcomes of Project Wickenby. This includes providing an intelligence picture of the size and threat of serious financial crime impacting on the Commonwealth to focus and prioritise operational responses, and ACC investigations leading to 19 criminal charges.
Chris Dawson, APM
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Crime Commission
The success of Project Wickenby demonstrates the value of multi-agency collaboration. Project Wickenby allowed law enforcement and regulatory agencies to share information, knowledge, experience and resources to ensure the integrity of Australia’s financial and regulatory systems and protect our revenue system against serious and organised crime.
First Assistant Secretary
Criminal Justice Division in the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department
During the past 10 years the CDPP has worked closely with our Wickenby partner agencies to successfully prosecute a large number of serious tax evasion matters, resulting in substantial terms of imprisonment in many cases. Those prosecutions have been important in dealing with specific individual criminality, often by wealthy and privileged individuals and their advisors, who (unsuccessfully) sought to place themselves above the law, sometimes using expensive and sophisticated methods. The prosecutions have also been very important in sending a strong deterrent message, making it clear that tax fraud is a serious crime that will be punished severely, and maintaining the rule of law principle that no-one is above the law. This encourages and supports the great bulk of our population, who do the right thing naturally, as well as discouraging those who might be tempted to do otherwise. The need for, and importance of, co-ordinated investigation and prosecution of serious tax fraud is now well established and must continue for the benefit of our whole society.
Robert Bromwich SC
Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
Project Wickenby is unprecedented in terms of its scale, scope, achievements and its role engendering cooperation and trust between the partner agencies involved. By harnessing each agency’s skills and capabilities, Wickenby investigations have developed best practice in the investigation of serious fraud.
‘Following the money’ is a central focus for the AFP when investigating all crime types, and particularly when it comes to detecting and prosecuting tax fraud.
The results of our combined efforts speak volumes. Property and cash worth millions of dollars have been identified, restrained and forfeited. Additionally, a number of people have received lengthy prison sentences with more cases still underway. Equally as important, we have seen a significant shift in criminal behaviour away from using well known tax havens.
Australian Federal Police
Project Wickenby combines the data, specialist knowledge and expertise of its partner agencies into a cohesive whole with a common vision.
AUSTRAC's expert capability in analysing financial intelligence and international funds flows is crucial to the project’s work of combating tax crime.
I’m proud of AUSTRAC’s longstanding contribution to Project Wickenby. Its success means there are no longer any ‘safe’ havens for tax evaders.
Paul Jevtovic APM
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre
Project Wickenby has been a very successful cross-agency taskforce. The greater information sharing under the taskforce has proved invaluable for all the agencies involved to jointly decide on priorities. The taskforce has been instrumental in enabling us to then take the most effective action available, under the current law, to deter the illegitimate use of offshore tax havens. This approach provides a model for future cross-agency cooperation and priority-setting, especially with regard to serious white collar crime.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission