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Tax Commissioner granted access to protected documents in defamation defence


The Commissioner of Taxation has won a Federal Court case against his second commissioner, allowing him to obtain protected information to fight against a defamation case brought on by a former tax agent.

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Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan had taken his second commissioner Andrew Mills to court to obtain protected information concerning former tax agent Vanda Gould, after Mr Gould commenced defamation proceedings against Mr Jordan.

The defamation claim came after Mr Jordan made a speech to the National Press Club in 2017, referencing Project Wickenby, an agency taskforce into international tax evasion, and the Hua Wang Bank case, which was found to be ultimately controlled or managed from Australia by Mr Gould.

Mr Jordan had said: “If I can give another example — this Hua Wang Bank case. It was a Wickenby case. It involved one promoter with over $350 million we’ve collected. They formed this Samoan bank and did all these transactions to hide profits.


“You had his barrister appearing on one of the major radio stations in Sydney saying they’re like the Gestapo, the whole lot should be sacked and sent out, and the Federal Court says, it was the most disgraceful behaviour they’d ever seen, they referred the matter for money laundering, insider trading and tax evasion of the worst kind, confirmed by the Full Federal Court, confirmed by the High Court.”

Mr Gould claims that he had been defamed by Mr Jordan in relation to being engaged in money laundering, insider trading and tax evasion of the “worst kind”.

Mr Jordan had requested documents protected under the Tax Act to defend himself, contending that the disclosure would be made in the performance of the taxation officer’s duties as a taxation officer, and that his ability to discharge his role would “suffer a chilling effect” if he could not make use of protected information to defend against claims arising out of public statements or speeches.

Justice Richard White ultimately decided that there was a connection between the defamation proceedings and taxation laws.

“I also accept that Mr Gould’s plea that the impugned statements of Mr Jordan conveyed the defamatory meaning that he had engaged in the ‘worst kind of tax fraud’ makes it very likely that the court will be asked in the defamation proceedings to consider matters bearing on the compliance with taxation laws by Mr Gould and the companies which he controls or manages,” Justice White said. 

“It was common ground that the taxation laws to which the defamation proceedings relate are taxation laws for which Mr Jordan is responsible in his capacity as commissioner.”

Jotham Lian

Jotham Lian


Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.

Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.

You can email Jotham at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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