Paul Hogan settles tax row but isn’t smiling


Paul Hogan and his business partner John Cornell have ended their long running tax dispute with the Australian Tax Office.The pair had been targeted by the ATO’s pursuit of high wealth tax evaders in Operation Wickenby in which Mr Hogan was detained in Australia while attending his mother’s funeral. That prohibition order has been revoked after Hogan and Cornell reached a settlement with the ATO while making no admissions of wrongdoing.


ELEANOR HALL: One of the country’s longest running and most bitter tax disputes is finally over, with Paul Hogan and John Cornell striking a confidential deal with the Australian Tax Office.

The pair had been targeted by the ATO’s Operation Wickenby, which has been pursuing high wealth tax evaders.

And Mr Hogan was detained in Australia while he was attending his mother’s funeral.

The order that prohibited him from leaving the coutnry has now been revoked but in the settlement the two make no admissions of wrongdoing.

Paul Hogan’s lawyer Andrew Robinson has been speaking to our Business editor Peter Ryan.

PETER RYAN: Andrew Robinson, what are you able to tell us about the settlement that Paul Hogan and John Cornell have reached with the tax office?

ANDREW ROBINSON: Well there’s nothing I can tell you about the actual contents because all the parties have agreed to a very broad confidentiality agreement, so there’s simply nothing about the terms I can discuss.

I think from Hogan and Cornell’s point of view, they’re pleased in the sense that they’ve now put all this behind them but obviously I don’t think they’re very happy about what occurred over the last five to seven years.

PETER RYAN: The key thing is that this settlement is without admission. Does that mean that Paul Hogan and John Cornell are satisfied in full that their names have been cleared?

ANDREW ROBINSON: The difficulty on that is that all you ever get in this life is essentially proven not guilty, you actually never get proven innocent. And Paul for example appeared in Society magazine’s list of the ten sexiest tax evaders last month and I suspect that sort of slur will continue.

I think as Cornell has said on occasions, it’s all very well going through this process but how, at the end of it you give a person back their name and their reputation.

But against that, the good thing is that from day one they’ve protested their innocence and done nothing wrong and this settlement involves no finding that they have done anything wrong.

PETER RYAN: So Paul Hogan and John Cornell are concerned that these unproven allegations will stay with them for the rest of their lives?


PETER RYAN: And the settlement figure is confidential?


PETER RYAN: Now Paul Hogan in particular was seen as a key high profile, high wealth target in the ASIO’s Operation Wickenby. It’s pretty hard to believe that Mr Hogan would not harbour any resentment despite the settlement.

ANDREW ROBINSON: Everybody who looks at what happened to the Hogan and Cornell investigation would have to admit that things could have been done differently. For five years they were under this ACC cloud where papers were reporting the ACC’s intention to charge them with money laundering offences that carried up to 25 year jail terms.

But I think as Hogan again has said from day one, if anyone had a problem with his tax, why couldn’t they have knocked on his door and asked him a question?

PETER RYAN: Well on that matter, during the legal battle, Paul Hogan was hit with a departure prohibition order to keep him in the country in relation to the ATO’s charges. What sort of stress did that cause, in particular because he was in Australia attending his mother’s funeral at the time?

ANDREW ROBINSON: Obviously that made the circumstances all the more difficult. In Paul’s case of course without notice, imprisoned him within Australia for a period of time until, again, the Commissioner sat down and spoke to us and we agreed on appropriate terms to allow him to travel to and from Australia – which was I think obviously a very important thing for Paul to be able to do because notwithstanding his current residency he’s always felt Australia to be hugely connected with him.

PETER RYAN: In settling this case, has the ATO come close to making any admission at all that some of its actions were over the top?

ANDREW ROBINSON: No, and… no they haven’t.

PETER RYAN: Is Paul Hogan still threatening to sue the Government over the conduct of Operation Wickenby?

ANDREW ROBINSON: The settlement is complete, the claims either way are all caught up in the settlement.

PETER RYAN: Paul Hogan is known for his sense of humour but is it fair to say that that has been tested or indeed damaged because of this case?

ANDREW ROBINSON: Look I think it’s been tested. Paul has always been and remains a naturally very funny person and one of the things that has surprised me throughout this ordeal is that to my observation his sense of humour is well and truly intact and he’s still an exceptionally funny person to talk to.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s the lawyer for Paul Hogan and John Cornell, Andrew Robinson, speaking to AM’s business editor Peter Ryan.

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One Response to “Paul Hogan settles tax row but isn’t smiling”

  1. voltara says:

    Hogan has been used cynically by the tax department to deter the average Australian from claiming tax returns due. Every year, regular as clockwork, at the end of the financial year when the average family was preparing it’s tax return we were hit with a flurry of reports on the latest accusations and enforcement against him.

    In the 80’s Hoges was personally responsible for lifting the international profile of Australia and donated his time and ideas to the most successful tourist marketing campaign in just about any country’s history. Little did he know he would be the unpaid star of another government program twenty years later.

    And don’t forget the other big “scalp” of the Wickenby fiasco, Glen Wheatley. He foolishly believed the tax officials when they said they’d go easy on him if he admitted to not declaring $300K of income. Strangely, the judge decided to give him closer to the maximum. He paid them a lot more than he originally tried to avoid paying tax on…plus 30 months jail.

    At the same time, Frank Lowy and his family have been implicated in several major international financial scandals including the release of a dossier of incriminating records from a Lichtenstein bank. However there seems little interest in investigating the hundreds of millions of dollars of untaxed income.

    I’d love to know what the settlement was, because I reckon Hogan got a cheque. Actually, I think he knows enough now not to take a cheque from these people.

    Whatever the deal, good on ya Hoges. He stood up to the bullies and showed he was bigger than them.

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