Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan owes tax on AU $37.6 million (approximately $34 million U.S.) of undeclared income, according to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), which temporarily banned him from leaving the continent until he agreed to pay up.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that the battle over this liability has been going on for more than five years. When Hogan, now a Los Angeles resident, flew to Sydney for his mother’s funeral in August, he was slapped with departure prohibition, an order preventing him from leaving the country until his bill was paid or payment arrangements were made.
Hogan is accused of taking part in what has been labeled by the Australian Crime Commission as the largest tax fraud inquiry in Australia’s history. The scam is called Operation Wickenby, and, though there are many participants, Hogan is likely the most visible among them.
To date, he has not officially been charged with tax evasion and he disputes the bill. He maintains that he “can’t pay 10 percent of what they are asking,” and believes the ATO is “absolutely desperate to nail some high-profile character.”
Authorities said Hogan and his financial advisor are guilty of weaving a complex web of crimes to evade income tax in the United States and Australia. The accusations include the claim that he manufactured a false deduction for nearly $1 million in paid-in interest.
Hogan’s attorney, Andrew Robinson, said detaining his client was wrong because no charges were filed against him. Robinson described his client as "stunned and very disappointed that the government could treat him as a flight risk.”
Earlier this month, Hogan was given permission to return to the U.S. after reaching an agreement with the ATO, according to the Associated Press.
"If I was a tax evader, which I'm not, I must be the dumbest one in the world to keep coming back here instead of fleeing to a tax haven", the 70-year-old told reporters on A Current Affair."I've paid more than a wise businessman would have. I don't have, and never had, the money people think I got and it's none of their business."
Hogan’s wife, Linda Kozlowski, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying “it’s like being held hostage. It’s sick.” When asked by reporters why she didn’t travel with him to Australia, she said she’s afraid to go there. “It’s a very scary place.”