Peter Lowy refuses to answer tax haven questions from US senate; Paul Hogan lashes ATO

Peter Lowy, son of Westfield founder Frank Lowy, finally appeared before a US senate committee investigating the use of offshore tax havens overnight on Friday – but his appearance was something of an anti-climax.

Peter Lowy, son of Westfield founder Frank Lowy, finally appeared before a US senate committee investigating the use of offshore tax havens overnight on Friday – but his appearance was something of an anti-climax.

The US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has indentified the Lowy family as a client of LGT Group, the secretive Liechtenstein bank owned by UBS and the Liechtenstein royal family and accused the Lowys of running a foundation in Liechtenstein to hide $US68 million in assets.

Peter Lowy had been called to appear before the hearing on 17 July but cited a previous business arrangement for his non-appearance.

But his appearance on 25 July was a non-event. Lowy ducked questions from the committee by invoking the fifth amendment of the US constitution, which allows citizens to refuse to answer questions on the grounds that their answers may incriminate.

Before giving evidence, a Republican member of the committee, Norm Coleman, scolded Lowy for ducking the 17 July appearance. “Mr Lowy had left the United States on a red-eye flight to Australia, just before the US Marshals Service could track him down and serve him with a subcommittee subpoena. All we seek here today is what we ask of any person or entity that we engage with; a measure of candour and respect for the law.”

But Lowy’s lawyer, Bob Bennett, denied Coleman’s claims.

Another famous Australian with tax problems is comedian and actor Paul Hogan, who is being investigated by the Australian Taxation Office and the US Internal Revenue Service. Last night on Nine Network’s 60 Minutes, Hogan described the ATO as a bully.

“Paid me tax. Go away. Stop sticking your nose in about what money I’ve got here or where, or what I’m going to do with it, or where I got it,” he told the program.

For more on the battles between the taxman and Australia’s wealthy, see today’s edition of Rich Secrets.

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