Joe Hockey’s neighbour says claims by the treasurer that his waterfront estate in Hunter’s Hill was bought on “spurious grounds” are unfair.
China millionaire Sam Guo said it was “an unfair accusation without any proof”, according to a Fairfax Media report.
“We won’t deny there are unlawful purchases of second-hand homes, but it is up to the treasurer to be prudent in making accusations,” Guo said through his lawyer Bridget Liu at Slattery and Associates.
The government has introduced increased penalties, including fines and jail terms, for those who break foreign investment rules.
Hockey had dobbed in his neighbour after finding out the $11.45 million property purchase was approved on the basis that the buyer was adding to the housing stock.
Under the current law, foreigners are prohibited from buying existing residential property in Australia unless permission is sought.
The housing stock turned out to be a granny flat which will be built on the property.
“I thought that’s ridiculous. It’s a heritage house,” Hockey said.
In March, Hockey also took to FIRB laws for the first time in eight years to force the sale of a $39 million Sydney harbourside mansion owned by one of China’s richest men.
The Australian government is currently investigating nearly 200 suspected breaches of foreign investment rues with 24 investors having used an amnesty to volunteer potential illegal home ownership.
“The government will continue to welcome foreign investment, but the community must have confidence that this investment is coming in on our terms and for our nation’s benefit,” read a joint statement by Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott.
“There is a moratorium until the 1st of December to come forward if you believe you may have unlawfully purchased residential property in Australia.”
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