Bob Johnson, the founder of leading mining technology provider Maptek, faced the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday after being charged last week in relation to an alleged taxation fraud spanning 15 years and totalling more than $38.5 million.
Dr Johnson faces two charges, which include two counts of defrauding the Commonwealth and 13 charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception — each has a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail time.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) will allege that Dr Johnson failed to disclose overseas trust assets in his income tax returns in an effort to evade income tax in Australia between 1999 and 2013.
In a statement, the AFP said it has also obtained restraining orders in the Supreme Court of South Australia under the Proceeds of Crime Act over a “significant” amount of assets.
AFP Southern Command Acting Commander Investigations Raegan Stewart said the charges came off the back of a long, international, intra-agency investigative effort, to which the ATO contributed.
“The laying of charges against the alleged offender as well as the obtaining of restraining orders in this investigation serves as a clear warning that the Australian Federal Police will take action in relation to allegations of serious financial crime,” Mr Stewart said.
In addition to the Tax Office, the AFP also worked with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), as part of the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) — an ATO-led joint agency task force — along with other international agencies from the Bailiwick of Jersey, the United States, the United Kingdom and the British Virgin Islands.
“We are committed to continuing to work together, alongside our international law enforcement agency partners in investigations, into this kind of offending, seek to remove the benefits derived from crime, identify those responsible and put them before the court,” Mr Stewart said.
Will Day, ATO deputy commissioner and SFCT Chief, said crimes involving deception, cheating and theft make everyone a victim.
“Each one of us is a victim, because it takes millions of dollars away that could be invested into essential services such as education and health,” Mr Day said. “That’s why it’s vital we continue to work together to stop serious financial crime and the devastating impacts it has on the community.
“The Serious Financial Crime Taskforce is making a difference and these charges demonstrate the SFCT’s ability to deliver a whole-of-government response to target criminal behaviour. It sends a clear message to the community that we do bring those who try to exploit Australia’s tax and super systems to account for their actions.
“We have further reinforced our ability to tackle tax crime through the additional work of the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement Alliance. The collaborative work of tax enforcement agencies across Australia, Canada, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States poses an enhanced capability to tackle tax crime such as in this matter.”
ACIC acting executive director of intelligence operations Dr Katie Willis said that the complexity of emerging financial crime issues has cast a new focus on the need for sustained multi-agency co-operation to better design mitigation strategies.
“The ACIC is committed to protecting Australia from criminal threats, and with ongoing collaboration with our domestic and international law enforcement partners, we will continue to stop financially motivated criminals exploiting emerging opportunities and perceived gaps in law enforcement information,” Dr Willis said.
Dr Johnson’s Maptek is considered by many to be a pioneer in the use of software to model underground resources deposits. The company, which he founded in 1981, employs hundreds of staff in various markets, including the US, Chile, South Africa and Russia.
Before that, he held senior positions at various listed companies, and led firms including Havilah Resources, in which he continues to hold substantial shares.
Dr Johnson was in May this year named by the mining equipment industry association, Austmine, as its 2021 champion of innovation.
John Buckley is a journalist at Accountants Daily.
Before joining the team in 2021, John worked at The Sydney Morning Herald. His reporting has featured in a range of outlets including The Washington Post, The Age, and The Saturday Paper.