EXTRACT FROM THE SMH: ‘Huang Xiangmo’s assets frozen as Tax Office pursues him for $140 million‘
The ATO sought urgent orders in the Federal Court in Sydney on Monday to freeze the local assets of Mr Huang and his wife Jiefang as it seeks to claw back millions in allegedly unpaid tax and penalties.
ATO’s barrister, Anthony McInerney, SC said Mr Huang had taken “no active steps to dissipate” his local assets but he was “evincing an intention to no longer have an association with this country” and the Tax Office feared he would either sell or “encumber” his local assets to put them beyond its reach.
Neither Mr Huang nor his lawyers were in court to respond to the claims.
Mr McInerney said information from government agency AUSTRAC revealed Mr Huang had transferred tens of millions of dollars into and out of the country between January 2016 and August this year. There had been an “increasing outflow of money, particularly since December 2018”, he said.
Justice Anna Katzmann said she was “satisfied that an order should be made” against Mr Huang and his wife, and reasons would be given at a later date. Mr and Mrs Huang may elect to challenge the freezing orders in court. The matter returns to court on Friday.
Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo has Australian assets frozen over US$96 million tax bill
- Huang was last year stripped of his Australian residency and barred from returning to the country
- He has been at the centre of a series of political interference concerns, having donated millions to Australia’s two main political parties
Published: 17 Sep, 2019
Huang Xiangmo with Malcolm Turnbull in 2016. Photo: Handout
Huang Xiangmo, the Chinese billionaire political donor who was last year stripped of his Australian residency and barred from returning to the country, has now reportedly has his Australian assets frozen and is being pursued by the country’s tax office for A$140 million (US$96 million).
Huang has been at the centre of a series of political interference concerns, having donated millions to Australia’s two main political parties and been photographed with key figures including former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
He has also come under scrutiny for alleged links to the United Front Work Department – a Chinese Communist Party-linked body accused of neutralising opposition and buying political influence around the world.
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On Tuesday, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the Australian Tax Office (ATO) this week moved to freeze Huang’s assets over unpaid taxes and penalties.
Huang has lived in Hong Kong with his wife, Jiefang, since his Australian residency was cancelled last year. The couple’s assets include a mansion worth A$13 million in the upscale Sydney suburb of Mosman.
In Federal Court, the ATO’s lawyers said Huang had been under audit since 2017 and had “grossly understated his income” between 2013 and 2015 and made “false or misleading statements” in income tax returns, the Herald reported.
The court heard Huang had received a A$140 million tax bill earlier this month, stemming mostly from the sale of a mansion in Hong Kong, creating a capital gains tax liability.
Huang has also emerged as a key figure in an inquiry conducted by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) into an alleged scheme by the NSW Labor Party to conceal a A$100,000 cash donation allegedly made by Huang before the 2015 state election. Such donations by property developers have been banned in NSW since 2009.
Huang allegedly delivered the cash personally to the party’s Sydney headquarters after a fundraising dinner in March 2015. He has denied making the donation and declined to testify during the ICAC inquiry.
In 2017, it was revealed Huang’s company had paid former Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s personal legal bills, and appeared alongside the politician at a news conference for Chinese media where Dastyari supported Beijing’s stance on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, contradicting Labor’s policy. The controversy forced Dastyari to quit politics.
“Wealthy Chinese businessmen have been pouring money into Australia’s two main political parties,” said Clive Hamilton, author of Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia.
“It’s believed that Beijing has been buying influence. Mr Huang has donated around A$2.7 million and demanded Australia change its policy on China’s unlawful occupation of islands in the South China Sea.
“The tax office’s pursuit of Mr Huang takes us deeper into the poison of dark money and CCP influence in the bloodstream of Australian politics.”
Additional reporting by John Power