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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Actor Paul Hogan, best known for playing an outback hunter in the "Crocodile Dundee" movies, has been stopped from leaving Australia until he pays a multi-million dollar tax bill, according to his lawyer.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) served U.S.-based Hogan with a departure prohibition order when he returned to Sydney last Friday for the funeral of his 101-year-old mother Florence, his lawyer Andrew Robinson said in a statement.
This prevents the 70-year-old actor from leaving Australia until any alleged tax debts are paid or arrangements made for the tax liability to be discharged.
"He is stunned and very disappointed that the government could treat him as a flight risk," said Robinson.
"He denies the liability asserted by the ATO and has filed objections which have not been the subject of any response from the ATO. He will continue to defend his position through all available legal and other channels."
Hogan is under investigation as part of a nationwide tax fraud probe over allegations that he put tens of millions of dollars in film royalties in offshore tax havens, a claim that he has denied, saying he had "paid plenty of tax" in Australia.
The tax office was reported to have served Hogan with an amended tax bill last month for tax on $37.6 million of undeclared income after a five-year long fight.
A spokesman from the ATO declined to comment.
"As he is an individual taxpayer, we can make no comment," the spokesman told Reuters.
Hogan, who was once a painter on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, has repeatedly denied that he has not paid all his taxes.
A popular Australian TV comedian, he hit international fame as Mick "Crocodile" Dundee in the 1986 film Crocodile Dundee which went on to become Australia's most successful film ever and won Hogan a Golden Globe for best actor.
Two sequels followed and Hogan married his Dundee co-star Linda Kozlowski which was his second marriage.
"The process of detaining Paul in Australia away from his wife and child in Los Angeles has devastated Paul and he hopes that discussions between us and the ATO will lead to a prompt resolution allowing him to return to his family, and thereafter to travel to and from Australia as his personal and business needs require," his lawyer added.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Steve Addison