Government orders another raft of forced sales

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The Federal Government’s crackdown on the illegal ownership of Australian real estate has continued, with the announcement of the forced sale of eight residential properties.

According to the government, the eight properties, valued between $200,000 and $5 million, bring the total number of forced sales since the Coalition formed government to 27.

The eight properties in question were owned by investors from five different countries.

“The individuals involved come from a range of countries – Canada, China, India, Malaysia and the United States of America,” Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said.

"The foreign investors either purchased established residential property without Foreign Investment Review Board approval, or had approval but their circumstances changed meaning they were breaking the rules,” Morrison said.

Morrison said the discovery of the illegal ownership of the eight properties was thanks to new powers granted to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

"The Government's transfer of responsibility to the ATO for compliance has enabled more active investigations and actions targeting illegitimate purchases,” he said.

"Since this transfer in May, over 1,500 matters have been referred for investigation. Through information provided by the public, together with the ATO's own enquiries, over 800 cases remain under active investigation.”

The eight foreign investors in question have three months to sell the properties, but they won’t be referred for criminal prosecution.

Under tougher laws introduced late last year, Illegal real estate purchases by foreign citizens attract criminal penalties of a $135,000 fine or three years' imprisonment, or both for individuals; and up to a $675,000 fine for companies. 

The new rules also allow capital gains made on illegal investments to be forfeited.

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