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Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian Assets - Australian Register

By Ian Hughes and Hui Ling Dean / 02 February 2023

In this article, Partner Ian Hughes and Special Counsel Hui Ling Dean in HopgoodGanim's Dispute Resolution and Litigation practice discuss the Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian assets (Australian Register) which is to commence operation by the end of 2024 and be administered by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).  Our team at HopgoodGanim delivers exceptional outcomes for  financial crime and corporate investigations, with Hui Ling and Ian advising on corporate anti-money laundering and proceeds of crime litigation.

Australia is likely to follow the lead of the United Kingdom (UK) which, on 15 March 2022, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fast tracked the introduction of a beneficial ownership register for foreign-owned property in the UK (UK Register). 1

The purpose of this (public) Register is to stop what has been described as the ‘London laundromat’ for washing dirty money and thereby prevent foreign criminals using shell companies and complex trust structures to acquire high-value properties, such as in the London Belgravia district, which is a renowned location for properties acquired with ‘black’ money. 

Failure to register beneficial ownership of a qualifying interest in property, or submitting false information for registration, is a criminal offence under the Economic Crime Act and may result in an offender being prevented from buying, selling, or mortgaging property in the United Kingdom in the future. 

In Australia, as of 1 January 2021, Part 7A of the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 provides for a Register of Foreign Ownership of Australian assets (Australian Register) which is to commence operation by the end of 2024. 

Part 7A requires foreign persons to notify the Foreign Investments Review Board (FIRB) of interests acquired through any of the following:

  • an acquisition of Australian land, including mining or production tenements;
  • an acquisition of exploration tenements; 
  • the taking of certain significant actions, notifiable actions, notifiable national security actions or reviewable notifiable national security actions in relation to entities or businesses.

At this stage, the Australian Register will not be publicly accessible, and the information will only be shared across government departments presumably to identify money laundering and other national security risks. However this may well evolve into a form more similar to the UK Register.

Connect with our team

Find out more about HopgoodGanim's Dispute Resolution and Litigation practice. Our dispute resolution team includes both general commercial litigation practitioners as well as industry expert practitioners in the areas of banking and finance, intellectual property, technology, digital assets, resources and energy, construction, hospitality, environment and planning, taxation, employment law and property.  The team covers financial crime and corporate investigations, with Hui Ling and Ian advising on corporate anti-money laundering and proceeds of crime litigation. All of our practitioners are focused on helping clients achieve exceptional outcomes.

HopgoodGanim also has a strong track record of obtaining foreign investment approvals and interacting with the FIRB. Our expertise includes providing FIRB legal advice, with FIRB lawyers experienced in FIRB approvals, FIRB applications, negotiating FIRB fees and applying legislation for businesses and investors.

Special series: AML and counter-terrorism financing laws

This article is part 4 of our content series, 'The money laundering deck: AML and counter-terrorism financing laws'. The series uses Russia as a case study to provide an analogy for how businesses can be impacted by AML and counter-terrorism financing laws while operating in Australia. Read the related articles in the series here:


1. Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 (Economic Crime Act)

Key Contacts
Ian Hughes
Partner
Ian is a Partner in our Dispute Resolution practice with a career spanning 40 years.
Hui Ling Dean
Special Counsel
Hui Ling is a Special Counsel in our dispute resolution and litigation team.

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