Treasurer Scott Morrison has ordered the forced sale of eight residential properties illegally held by foreign nationals.
Mr Morrison said the properties were purchased in Victoria, Queensland and NSW, with prices ranging from $200,000 to more than $5 million.
The buyers were from Canada, China, India, Malaysia and the US. They either purchased established residential property without approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board or had approval but their circumstances changed, according to Mr Morrison.
"These divestments are a reminder that the Coalition government's increased compliance measures, which include transferring responsibility for residential real estate enforcement to the Australian Taxation Office [ATO], are working to ensure our foreign investment rules are being enforced,” he said.
"The government's transfer of responsibility to the ATO for compliance has enabled more active investigations and actions targeting illegitimate purchases.
“Since this transfer in May, over 1,500 matters have been referred for investigation. Through information provided by the public, together with the ATO’s own enquiries, over 800 cases remain under active investigation.”
The Coalition has now ordered the forced sale of 27 properties since taking office in 2013, and has also introduced a tougher compliance regime.
Illegal real estate purchases by foreign citizens now attract criminal penalties of $135,000, three years’ imprisonment or both for individuals, and up to $675,000 for companies. The new rules also allow capital gains made on illegal investments to be forfeited.
"The government is committed to enforcing our rules so that foreign nationals illegally holding Australian property are identified by authorities and their illegal holdings relinquished,” Mr Morrison said.
“We recognise that foreign investment provides significant benefits for Australia but we must also ensure that such investment benefits all Australians, conforms to our rules and is not contrary to our national interest.”