Australia widens probe into il­le­gal home buy­ing by for­eign­ers

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

Aus­tralian Trea­surer Joe Hockey on Tues­day widened a probe into the il­le­gal buy­ing of res­i­den­tial prop­erty by for­eign­ers, with al­most 200 sales be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for breaching in­vest­ment rules.

Prices of res­i­den­tial real es­tate in some of Australia’s big­gest cities, such as Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, have soared in re­cent years, with con­cerns grow­ing that cashed-up for­eign­ers, par­tic­u­larly from China, have helped in­flate the mar­ket.

“The Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice is us­ing all the re­sources of gov­ern­ment to fully in­ves­ti­gate any sug­ges­tions that come for­ward that a for­eign per­son has un­law­fully pur­chased real es­tate in Australia,” Hockey said, with 60 of­fi­cials on the case.

“This is the tip of the ice­berg. The data-match­ing pow­ers of the Aus­tralian Tax­a­tion Of­fice are for­mi­da­ble. And they will give us the power to look right across the sys­tem.”

The gov­ern­ment an­nounced a crack­down on il­le­gal pur­chases ear­lier this year and said it would rig­or­ously en­force rules un­der which for­eign­ers are only al­lowed to buy new dwellings, and not ex­ist­ing res­i­den­tial prop­erty.

Hockey cre­ated head­lines in March by is­su­ing a di­vest­ment or­der on a luxury Syd­ney man­sion worth AU$39 mil­lion (US$30 mil­lion) bought il­le­gally un­der for­eign in­vest­ment rules by China’s Ever­grande Real Es­tate Group. It has since been sold.

He said last month that some 100 cases of il­le­gal pur­chases were be­ing probed, which has now spi­raled to al­most 200.

The trea­surer added that the widen­ing in­quiry spanned the breadth of the mar­ket, from prop­er­ties val­ued at AU$300,000 to more than AU$40 mil­lion.

In one case, an over­seas buyer was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for own­ing 10 homes over two states.

For­eign in­vestors who have bought il­le­gally have a mora­to­rium un­til Dec.1 to come for­ward, with Hockey adding that 24 of the cases be­ing ex­am­ined in­volved vol­un­tary dis­clo­sures by buy­ers.

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