Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo has been ordered to declare all of his assets – everywhere in the world – to the federal court as the Australian tax office continues to pursue him over an alleged $140m tax bill.
In court on Thursday, Justice Jayne Jagot ordered Huang – exiled from Australia after his permanent residency was torn up by the government last year –disclose all of his assets, both in Australia and worldwide, by 11 November.
The ATO alleges Huang, a property developer, sought to avoid tax by “grossly understating” his income for three years, and now owes $140m in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.
Huang is contesting the case, and had resisted declaring his worldwide assets, with his lawyers arguing in court the Chinese national had “not insubstantial” commercial arrangements around the world – including continuing development projects in Australia – that could be impacted by him being forced to disclose all of his financial arrangements.
Huang’s Yuhu Group is currently developing the site at One Circular Quay in Sydney’s CBD. But work on the project, on the shores of Sydney harbour, has stalled, there is no builder and it is unclear when the project might resume.
In court, lawyers for Huang sought – and received – assurances that the information disclosed to the court about Huang’s global empire would not be used to mount fresh investigations into his tax affairs or shared with overseas revenue agencies.
Huang was exiled from Australia in December last year when the government, on advice from Asio over concerns of foreign political interference, rescinded his permanent residency. His application for citizenship was withdrawn. Huang had been a significant political donor to both the Coalition and Labor parties since arriving in Australia in 2011, but security agencies had consistently raised concerns about his close links to the Chinese Communist Party.
Since being excluded from Australia, Huang has removed more than $50m from the country, the ATO alleges. The tax office claims he does not have sufficient assets in Australia to cover his alleged tax bill, and may seek to declare Huang bankrupt in order to pursue the alleged debt.
But in an extraordinary broadside at the ATO, Huang has excoriated the tax office over the case, accusing it of being a “despicable tool for political persecution”, part of a conspiracy of “unknown dark forces” and an Australian “deep state” allayed against him.
“All allegations against me have been ‘groundless’ in nature,” Huang said in a statement to the Guardian. “Be it a political donation or an alleged tax burden, it all leads to fictional tales fabricated in a vacuum. Even more shockingly, some government agencies have actually taken or attempted to take some ‘deep state-style’ actions against me based on those ‘fictions’. This is the real woe of Australia and where the actual risk lies for the country.”
The tax office has defended its independence and integrity.
“The ATO administers the taxation and superannuation laws fairly … when we collect revenue or make payments, we operate in a fair, professional and responsible way,” a tax office spokesman said.