Net tightens around law-breaking foreign investors

The federal government has revealed it is investigating almost 500 potentially illegal real estate purchases by foreign nationals.

Treasurer Joe Hockey announced that 481 cases are under active investigation following public tip-offs and enquiries from government agencies.

Since the government transferred compliance functions to the Australian Taxation Office in May, more than 3,000 pieces of information relating to suspected breaches have come to light through data-matching with third-party sources, according to Mr Hockey.

Those sources include financial intelligence unit AUSTRAC, the Foreign Investment Review Board, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and state and territory land title offices.

“I expect more divestment orders will be announced in the future, and once again warn foreign investors in residential real estate that they must comply with Australian law,” Mr Hockey said.

Foreign investors who have made illegal purchases will evade prosecution if they self-report before 30 November, although they will still be forced to sell their properties.

Mr Hockey yesterday announced the forced sale of five homes in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast, valued between $265,000 and $8.1 million.

Also yesterday, the federal parliament debated new government legislation that would tighten foreign investment rules and introduce stricter penalties.

Agents who help overseas buyers flout foreign investment rules would face severe penalties under this tougher compliance regime.

[LinkedIn: Is foreign investment generally a positive or a negative?]

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