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Australians Laundered Millions Through NZ Accounts

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, July 14 NZPA - Two Australian entrepreneurs who laundered millions of dollars through New Zealand banks are to pay the Australian Tax Office over $NZ40 million in tax and penalties.

A former director of Murchison Metals and backer of the Sydney Swans, Phillip Grimaldi, will pay more than $A36m in tax and penalties, and Sydney property developer Garry Bonaccorso has agreed to pay $A3.5 million after the pair funnelled millions of dollars through a series of New Zealand bank accounts.

The money was disguised as consultancy and management fees when it left Australia, and was then sent back disguised as a loan, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today.

Eight ANZ accounts and two at Bank of New Zealand were used as part of the scheme.

Mr Grimaldi had $A14.3 million in these New Zealand accounts, while Mr Bonaccorso had $A220,000 in them.

More than $A1.25 million in an ANZ account in Auckland in the name of International Finance Trust Company was from the sale of 300,000 shares in Murchison Metals in June 2007.

Mr Grimaldi used the proceeds of the scheme to buy a $A300,000 Bentley, a $A645,000 boat and to fund a shopping spree at British retailer Harrods.

A separate court action has been brought by the New South Wales Crime Commission in the NSW Supreme Court, alleging that the funds are the proceeds of crime.

If they are found to have committed fraud the two men face up to five years in jail.

Both invested in the alleged money-laundering scheme, which was promoted by the Australian accountant Robert Agius, 59, based in Vanuatu.

The tax avoidance and money-laundering scheme was exposed by a joint taskforce of the federal police and the Tax Office, which has been tapping phones and raiding offices.

The pair are the largest clients of Mr Agius so far to face court orders to pay unpaid taxes.

According to a statement filed by a federal police investigator, Arthur Moerman, in the criminal case against Mr Agius, the scheme was a "round robin scheme".

An "initial analysis of all foreign company bank accounts operated by Mr Agius" indicated that more than $A100 million had been moved through them on behalf of hundreds of clients since November 2000.

Mr Grimaldi is alleged to have used Vanuatu companies, including RLB Investments, Iron Investments, Iron International and International Finance Trust Company to evade tax. RLB Investments was a big shareholder in Murchison Metals.

International Finance Trust Company made more than $10 million in payments to Mr Grimaldi in the two years to 2008.

A fortnight ago Justice Minister Simon Power told Parliament that New Zealand had been used to launder millions of dollars of criminal proceeds, as the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Bill passed its first reading on a unanimous vote.

"Last year, I am advised, New Zealand was used by an offender to launder almost $120 million from Australia through New Zealand and into Vanuatu," he said.

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