German probe puts heat on Australian tax dodgers

Other News Materials 26 February 2008 06:42 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Australian tax authorities Tuesday refused comment on reports that they had received a list of rich locals who had salted away millions of dollars in secret bank accounts in the tax haven of Liechtenstein, a tiny European principality.

But the Australian Tax Office (ATO) pointed to its record of pursuing high-profile individuals suspected of using overseas jurisdictions to evade taxes.

News reports abroad said that the German government had passed details to the ATO of suspected tax dodgers who were clients of the Liechtensteinische Landesbank (LLD).

The list was bought by the German government from a former LLD employee and convicted swindler named in newspaper reports as 42- year-old Heinrich Kieber, a Liechtenstein citizen. There are reports that under a witness-protection programme, Kieber has been given a new identity and is living in Australia.

The German government is trying to recover unpaid taxes from LLD clients identified by Kieber, who after being convicted of fraud and theft in Liechtenstein sold his list to the German authorities.

Britain has reportedly paid German authorities for the names of its citizens who appear on Kieber's list.

Though the ATO does not have a policy of paying for information leading to the apprehension of tax cheats, it has proven itself assiduous in catching citizens who try to evade tax through offshore bank accounts and trust funds.

The ATO is currently working through a list of local clients that it found on a laptop seized in Melbourne from international tax guru Philip Egglishaw, who is based in the Channel Islands jurisdiction of Jersey.

Crocodile Dundee film star Paul Hogan was on that list, along with prominent people from the fields of sports and entertainment. Hogan, who last year left Australia to live in the United States, said he had settled outstanding tax bills.