SYDNEY (Reuters) - Actor Paul Hogan, star of the “Crocodile Dundee” movies, has vowed to continue fighting the Australian tax office which has barred him from leaving Australia until he pays a massive bill, saying he’s victim of a witch hunt.
Hogan, 70, was served with a departure prohibition order 10 days ago while in Australia to attend his 101-year-old mother’s funeral which has prevented him from leaving to return to Los Angeles where he lives with his wife and son.
The Australian Tax Office refused to comment on reports of seeking tax on A$38 million ($34 million) of allegedly undeclared income from Hogan, saying it cannot give details of individual taxpayers.
But the actor went public in the Australian media this week to put forward his side in his five-year row with the tax office, saying he had done nothing wrong and the tax office was on a witch hunt for a high-profile case.
“I can’t pay 10 percent of what they’re asking.... bugger ‘em!” the actor told Australian television Nine Network’s “A Current Affair” program broadcast late Tuesday.
“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 ... I know they’re absolutely desperate to nail some high-profile character with money to justify the expense to the taxpayer.”
Hogan, who was once a painter on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is under investigation as part of Australia’s biggest probe into offshore tax evasion, Operation Wickenby.
The operation is budgeted to cost at least $300 million.
The tax office has claimed he put tens of millions of dollars in film royalties in offshore tax havens, a claim that he has denied. He has never been charged with tax evasion.
A popular Australian TV comedian, Hogan 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.
Hogan has repeatedly said that if anything he has paid too much tax in Australia.
“I’ve paid more than a wise businessman would have,” he said. “I don’t have and never had the money people think I got ... and it’s none of their business,” he added.
Editing by Belinda Goldsmith