Tax office considers bankrupting Chinese billionaire

THE Australian tax department is considering bankrupting exiled Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo in a bid to recover an alleged $140 million debt.

Australian assets associated with Mr Huang, including a $12.8m Mosman mansion, were frozen by the courts last month after the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation hit the businessman with the $140m bill.

Huang Xiangmo at the Sydney Opera House in 2016. Picture: Renee Nowytarger/The Australian
Huang Xiangmo at the Sydney Opera House in 2016. Picture: Renee Nowytarger/The Australian

"The amount of the tax liability is considerable and there is a real danger that, without the freezing orders, assets will be removed from Australia," Federal Court Justice Anna Katzmann said at the time.

The Australian Taxation Office wants the courts to order Mr Huang to pay the massive bill.

The ATO's barrister, Anthony McInerney SC, told the Federal Court it was considering bankrupting Mr Huang in Australia because Hong Kong's courts "could recognise bankruptcy in Australia as a proper basis to make freezing orders on assets in Hong Kong."

But Mr Huang's legal team said the ATO had been unable to show the billionaire's current home, Hong Kong, and his native country, China, will enforce Australia's rulings.

"(There is) no basis to conclude that any judgment on the claim would be enforceable overseas," barrister Noel Hutley said on Thursday.

Bankruptcy is not an option, he added, because Mr Huang is not a resident of Australia nor does he have a dwelling or business here.

Mr Hutley said the ATO "with all of its resources, has not been able to direct your honour to any statute, principal or case which would suggest the remotest possibility" they could pursue enforce the tax bill with his client gone from Australia.

"These orders are orders of the most intrusive variety," he said.

Mr Huang, who is at the centre of a NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption probe into political donations to NSW Labor, left Sydney after having his Australian permanent residency and citizenship bid knocked back last December.

The bankruptcy could also help the ATO recover millions of dollars from the Mosman mansion, but the illustrious property was purchased in his the name of Mr Huang's wife, Jiefang, in 2013.

A photograph submitted to a public inquiry showing Huang Xiangmo (second from right) dining with former NSW Labor senator Ernest Wong, former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten and former NSW Labor leader Luke Foley.
A photograph submitted to a public inquiry showing Huang Xiangmo (second from right) dining with former NSW Labor senator Ernest Wong, former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten and former NSW Labor leader Luke Foley.

Mr Huang's legal team want the property, and his overseas assets, exempt from the freezing orders.

But the ATO pointed out numerous transactions between the billionaire and his wife, who they argue made $89,000 in 2013, as proof he supplied the bankrolled the purchase.

Mr Huang's legal team, the court heard, will disclose his Australian assets within 21 days but does not want to divulge the extent of his global empire.

The freezing order was set to expire at 5pm on Thursday but they will now be extended until next week.

Justice Katzmann, in September, said between January 2016 and August 2019 Mr Huang transferred tens of millions of dollars in and out of Australia but since his tax audit began the amount of cash moved offshore increased dramatically.

"The amount of money transferred out of Australia since December 2018 exceeds the amount coming in by $46,749,253, - nearly twice as much as the previous year," she said.

Mr Huang was hit with the huge tax bill on September 11 - the same day his wife left Australia.



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