As apparent leaks continue to emerge from the Australian Tax Office, the government has stepped in. And a source within the government has told Crikey that an investigation into the multi-agency Operation Wickenby Project is imminent, which could include tapping the phones of officials and journalists.

Two further stories on Operation Wickenby suspects over the weekend were enough for Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton to tell Crikey that he’s raised concerns with the Tax Commissioner.

“I was concerned to see allegations regarding people’s personal tax affairs in the press this week,” Dutton told Crikey. “I have raised it with the Tax Commissioner. Obviously there are a number agencies involved. I’ll be having further discussions with the Commissioner regarding this matter.”

Dutton has ministerial responsibility for administrative matters relating to the ATO. Both sides of politics weighed into the debacle with Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon saying: “Nothing could undermine confidence in the tax office more than a bout of trial by media.” The tax office refused to comment on the leaks last Friday.

Dutton’s statement came after the leaking of more tax information on Operation Wickenby suspects continued unabated on Saturday with two stories outing latest victim Dr Graham Kelly, one of Sydney’s most successful scientists. The contest between The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald has reached fever point with both media organisations trying to outdo each other in naming the next leak victim.

This morning in The Australian the journalist provides explicit descriptions of three tax avoidance pamphlets allegedly produced by Strachans, the Swiss-based accounting firm at the centre of the Wickenby investigation, which were seized in a raid on February 14, 2004, at the Melbourne hotel room of Strachans principal Philip Egglishaw.

It’s clear that the journalist was either provided copies of the seized documents or was provided with precise descriptions of their content.