Operation Wickenby stings potato boss for $40m

A criminal investigation called Operation Wickenby, has frozen assets valued at more than $40 million from a NSW potato producer over tax offences. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Federal Court has been informed that Australian business man Paul Rennie has been involved in systematic tax-evasion, dating back to 1997. 

Mr. Rennie, who controls one of Australia’s largest potato and cherry producer, is expected to be charged with defrauding the Commonwealth, obtaining financial advantage by deception and dealing in the proceeds of crime.

Operation Wickenby, which is a joint investigation between the Tax Office, Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission, found evidence that Mr. Rennie had conducted fake loans, sham transactions with companies in overseas tax havens and was holding millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts.

As a result of the investigation, the Federal Court judge Michelle Gordon has frozen $42.9 million belonging to Mr. Rennie. A further $20 million was frozen from the assets of Lachlan Produce, a potato growing business linked to Mr. Rennie. 

The liquidators, acting on behalf of the Tax Office, report that the potato business was transferred in 2005 to Lachlan Produce and Agrico, which also belongs to the Rennie family company.

In addition to the tax evasion within the potato businesses, Mr. Rennie is also accused of similar activity with his cherry producing interests. Furthermore, there is evidence of a string of complex overseas transfers, sometimes amounting to as much as $12 million, which have been made without paying tax.


Image courtesy of www.hilldalepotato.com

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