Tax commissioner Michael Carmody is not someone who generally causes a laugh. But his interview with Alan Kohler on Inside Business yesterday was most amusing because of the five second silence before the following answer:

ALAN KOHLER: Just on another matter, there are suggestions that the Tax Office is investigating Steve Vizard for tax related issues, are you able to comment on that?

MICHAEL CARMODY: I can’t comment on our investigations of any individual. That’s just not permitted by law for very good reason.

When denying something or refusing to comment, it’s best to be decisive. But the huge silence was as good a confirmation that you’ll ever get from the ATO, which has a rich vein of material to work through given Vizard’s numerous hard-to-decipher interests in various businesses plus his aggressive use of charities and foundations.

How Steve Vizard’s charitable operations came to own the clifftop property at Port Douglas is presumably something that the ATO is taking a look at. Adam Shand had an interesting point on the Sunday program yesterday when he revealed that Roy Hilliard, the accountant who allegedly stole $3 million from his boss, used to occupy a room at one of the two East Melbourne properties where The Vizard Foundation offers subsidised rooms for rural Victorians in Melbourne for hospital treatment.

This disclosure by Sunday might have been a little reckless two days before Roy Hilliard’s trial and it has been wiped from the transcript of the story, although various outlets have picked up Crikey’s story from last week about an imminent deal with the Victorian DPP to prevent Hilliard’s trial proceeding. Sunday’s Adam Shand put it as follows:

There is now real doubt that the Crown can proceed against Roy Hilliard on theft charges when the star witness, Vizard, is so completely without credit. The trial is due to begin on Tuesday, but Vizard reportedly will not testify for fear of self-incrimination. Roy Hilliard will apparently agree to the lesser charge of false accounting under a deal. Meanwhile his accuser still faces the possibility of criminal perjury charges and the certainty of years of ignominy.

Vizard’s good character submissions last week focused more on his East Melbourne accommodation service than anything else, yet there was no mention of Roy Hilliard working out of the properties which Vizard bought without paying any tax. The Vizard Foundation is enjoying a profit of at least $2 million on the two East Melbourne properties, so it would be interesting to know who would get the cash and what tax would be paid if they were sold.

Peter Fray

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