Serious criminals including bikie gang members are among the hundreds of Australians named in documents leaked from secretive Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, a Senate inquiry has heard.
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan has revealed about 80 of the 800 Australians being investigated following the Panama Papers leak match the Australian Crime Commission’s serious and organised crime intelligence database.
“These are not people with outstanding parking fines or traffic infringement notices,” he told a Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance on Thursday.
Mr Jordan said the Australian Taxation Office was cracking down on companies and individuals using tricks to try to stymie investigations, such as hiding behind legal professional privilege.
He revealed the ATO is working with the Federal Court to see how strategically-important cases can be fast-tracked through the court list.
“When we’re basically stooged, gamed, everyone nods and grins and commits to do things and doesn’t deliver, we’re very much hardening our approaches,” he said.
He named ridesharing company Uber as one that made it difficult for the ATO to obtain information by holding documents in the Netherlands.
Mr Jordan said the ATO was still analysing the more than 11 million leaked documents to see whether any of the information matched existing intelligence and had attended emergency meetings with 35 countries in Paris last week to formalise an international approach to the revelations.
ATO officials told the hearing Australia was working with most countries to stamp out tax avoidance but some like Panama remain secrecy havens that won’t share information.
Other jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands communicate with Australia but are careful to ensure they do not hold much information.
Based on UK estimates, Australia could be losing at least $2 billion a year in tax revenue.
Mr Jordan said the information revealed by what has been described as the biggest data leak in history was “no surprise”, with the ATO having previously known about Mossack Fonseca.
The firm was not the only one of its kind, but it was impossible to know how many similar firms were operating worldwide.
He said the ATO had lost 4000 staff since 2013 – 18 per cent of its workforce – but insisted it had a strong kit bag to tackle the problem and would leave “no stone unturned”.
“There is no silver bullet here.
“There’s no piece of law we can do here that will cover this ability to get this information.”
ABC journalist Marian Wilkinson, who was part of the global investigative team that trawled through the documents, which revealed how the wealthy hide their money, said there could be more Australians involved than the 800 already under investigation.
Some Australian banks were also involved but the material on them was fragmented.
She said most were probably involved in legal activity, which raises questions about whether laws need to be tightened.
More Australians could be revealed when details of more than 200,000 companies named in the papers are uploaded next month.
The inquiry is due to hand down its report on Friday.