The former chief executive of Nudie Juice, Andrew Binetter, is being sued by the Australian Taxation Office following allegations he oversaw a tax scam involving millions of dollars.
The case, which is due to be heard in the Federal Court before Justice Gleeson today in Sydney, follows investigations by the tax office as part of Operation Wickenby, which has now concluded.
According to reports in The Australian, the ATO claims Binetter, as well as other members of his family, brought in millions of dollars from their own accounts at Swiss and Israeli banks from 2006 to 2009 but disguised the money as loans.
The money was allegedly used to fund businesses, such as Nudie, while the family allegedly claimed tax deductions on the interest it paid on the loans.
The ATO’s move against Binetter personally follows its attempt to freeze $45 million in proceeds from the takeover of Nudie Juice by Philippines-based multinational food giant Monde Nissin earlier this year.
The urgent Federal Court application was made after lawyers for the liquidator of BCI Finances – the Binetter family’s funding vehicle for Nudie Juice – found out the family was about to sign off on the $80 million sale to Monde Nissin. The ATO, in turn, is a major creditor of BCI.
Mark Molesworth, tax partner at BDO Australia, told SmartCompany although Project Wickenby is over, the tax office will “always use information at its disposal in a way it sees fit”.
“Certainly if the tax office has information, even if it’s from a project which is no longer continuing, it’s not really a surprise,” he says.
He says the tax office regularly put out statistics about the success of such investigations.
Molesworth says without an outcome from this case, it is hard to draw any conclusions but generally speaking, people have to declare their income from offshore.
“Australians have to pay tax on income in Australia no matter where they have earned it,” he says.
“If the allegations relate to interest or income derived offshore which has not been put in an Australian tax return, then that is an allegation the tax office may make,” he says.
“That would be the sort of allegation the tax office would pursue.”
SmartCompany contacted Andrew Binetter for comment but did not receive a response prior to deadline. Nudie Juice declined to comment on the case.