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Action against Vanuatu based tax avoidance and money laundering.



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*** JOINT MEDIA RELEASE ***

ACTION AGAINST VANUATU BASED TAX AVOIDANCE AND MONEY LAUNDERING

Under the banner of Project Wickenby, Australian and international agencies have today conducted operations across three countries to attack abusive tax haven schemes linked to Vanuatu.

The Australian Federal Police have arrested one promoter in Western Australia this morning, and several other people will be summonsed to appear in court shortly. Search warrants were executed in Sydney, Vanuatu and New Zealand today as part of the operations.

The Australian Taxation Office is also conducting 80 audits examining allegedly false tax deductions exceeding $90 million. People who avoid tax through the use of abusive tax haven schemes place an unfair burden on the vast majority of the Australian community who do the right thing.

Anyone involved in these schemes is encouraged to come forward voluntarily and cooperate with the authorities. People who contact the Tax Office before they are contacted may have access to reduced penalties.

The Australian Taxation Office, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission have been greatly assisted by international cooperation including from the Vanuatu Police Force, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Inland Revenue Department.

The following Ministers’ agencies were involved in the joint operation:

The Hon. Wayne Swan MP, Treasurer The Hon. Robert McClelland MP, Attorney-General The Hon. Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs The Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Assistant Treasurer The Hon. Bob Debus MP, Minister for Home Affairs The Hon. Nick Sherry MP, Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Governance The Hon. Duncan Kerr MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs The Hon. Bob McMullan MP, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance.

Minister Sherry will meet Greg Tanzer, Secretary -General of IOSCO, next week and will discuss increasing the transparency of financial transactions in Vanuatu.

28 April 2008 CANBERRA

Contact: Matt Martyn-Jones 0419 418 394 (Treasurer’s office) Jenny Reid 0403 570 738 (ATO Media Contact)

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