Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo (黃向墨) has been given 21 days to declare all of his assets around the world to the Australian Federal Court, as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) pursues him over an alleged A$140 million (US$96.3 million) tax bill.
The reclusive Huang, exiled from Australia over security agencies’ concerns about foreign political interference, is fighting an ATO demand for more than A$140 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.
The ATO is seeking to have Huang declared bankrupt in Australia, applying for a summary judgment that could be the basis for pursuing his assets over the tax bill.
In the federal court yesterday, Justice Jayne Jagot continued an order freezing all of Huang’s assets, including those outside of Australia, and ordered that he disclose his assets worldwide within 21 days.
Huang’s barrister Nathan Li foreshadowed a likely appeal against the disclosure of assets outside of Australia.
The ATO’s application before the court says that Huang owes A$140,925,953.98 in unpaid taxes from 2013 to 2015.
“The ATO formed the opinion during the audit into Mr Huang’s taxation affairs ... that Mr Huang had ‘grossly understated’ his income and made false or misleading statements to the commissioner in respect of the income tax returns with ‘recklessness,’” the ATO said in its submissions to the court.
The arguments before the court have centered on the limits of the freezing order, and whether the court should — or practicably could — order a freeze on assets held outside of Australia.
Lawyers for Huang Xiangmo had sought to carve out his overseas assets from the freezing order, as well an A$12.8 million mansion held in the name of his wife, Huang Jiefang (黃潔芳), the largest asset still in Australia.
His lawyers argue it belongs to his wife, and should be exempted from the freezing order.
The ATO points to bank records that show Huang Xiangmo withdrew more than A$5 million from a bank account he controlled on the day the property settled, arguing it was used to help purchase the property.
Huang Jiefang’s affidavit to the court, in which she gives her occupation as “housewife” and her income as A$100,000 a year, says the funds were a gift from her husband.
In issuing the original freezing order against Huang last month, Justice Anna Katzmann said that Huang had pulled nearly A$50 million out of Australia since his permanent residency was canceled by the government in December last year.
“Although [Huang] transferred money overseas before he was aware that he was under investigation by the ATO, since the audit began the amount of money transferred offshore increased dramatically,” she said.
“The results of the audit indicate an intention to avoid paying tax by grossly understating income,” she said.
Huang Xiangmo is now in Hong Kong.
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