The J5 is looking at clients, some of whom are based in Australia, who are thought to have used the bank to conceal and transfer wealth secretly to avoid tax and hide the proceeds of organised crime. The alleged activity may have been going on for several years.
The action followed the collection of information via search warrants, interviews and subpoenas, which the J5 said had seen “significant information” collated.
Criminal, civil and regulatory action against those involved is expected to be pursued in each of the J5 jurisdictions.
Australian Tax Office deputy commissioner Will Day said “hundreds” of Australians had been identified as clients of the Central American institution.
He said those people concerned about their activities with an offshore financial institution should come forward now.
“We are commencing investigations into a smaller number of those to begin with, who we suspect have undeclared income,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
“Following this week’s activities, we expect the information gathered to inform further potential risk reviews and prompt further investigations into more clients.”
The ATO has already started investigations into Australian-based clients of the Central American bank, suspected of failing to declare income. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is also assisting with more clients being investigated.
“This multi-agency, multi-country activity should degrade the confidence of anyone who was considering an offshore location as a way to evade tax or launder the proceeds of crime,” Mr Day said.
Head of America’s Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation unit, Don Fort, said while this was the J5’s first co-ordinated joint action it would not be the last.
“Working with the J5 countries who have all the same goal, we are able to broaden our reach, speed up our investigations and have an exponentially larger impact on global tax administration,” he said.
“Tax cheats in the US and abroad should be on notice that their days of non-compliance are over.”
Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.