Potential tax evaders are thinking twice about using offshore havens to hide money, as Project Wickenby demonstrates Australian government agencies' increasing ability to track down funds.
Since launching six years ago, with the intent of preventing potentially billions of dollars of public funds being hidden offshore, Project Wickenby is having the effect of returning fund flows to Australia.
A recent report by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) shows that from 2007-08 to 2010-11 there was a $12 billion decrease in fund flows to the major jurisdictions where Project Wickenby has focused attention.
In particular, fund flows to Australia from the secrecy jurisdictions which have been under the Wickenby spotlight increased by around $5 billion last year, compared to the 2007-08 financial year.
AUSTRAC figures also show a 50% decline in funds flowing to Vanuatu, 80% to Liechtenstein and 22% to Switzerland.
Fewer entities are transacting in secrecy jurisdictions under our scrutiny. In the last five financial years there was a 77% decrease in the number of entities that were initially transacting with Vanuatu.
We have information exchange agreements with 32 countries, with the addition of Liechtenstein late last year.
Through new technical capability, technology, national and international cooperation, and support from the judicial system, we are closing the gaps, and punishing those who are driven to defraud the tax system. The message to those involved in tax crime is simple - we are watching and it's not a matter of if you'll be caught, but when.
Project Wickenby results at a glance
At January 2012:
- more than $1.2 billion raised in tax liabilities
- 2,925 audits and reviews completed
- 65 people charged with serious offences
- 22 people convicted of serious offences.