Australian billionaire says funds ‘donated to Israel’

By Dan Goldberg, July 24, 2008

Australia's second-richest man has claimed that the $68 million (£34m) a US Senate report accuses him of hiding from tax authorities was donated to charities in Israel.

The allegation came via the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in a hearing last Thursday, prompting Frank Lowy - who fled Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust and fought in Israel's 1948 War of Independence - to issue a vehement denial.

In a statement, he said he "totally rejects" the committee's allegation that he tried to avoid paying tax by holding a secret bank account in Lichtenstein, and that the assets were disbursed to Israeli charities in 2001.

"Mr Lowy insists that neither he nor any member of his family has done anything improper.

"No attempt was made to save any Australian tax," the statement said, adding that the allegation "amounts to a denial of natural justice".

Mr Lowy, 77, is the founder of the Westfield Group, the world's biggest shopping-mall owner. Westfield has centres in Australia, New Zealand, America and Britain, to which Mr Lowy travelled earlier this month to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He announced the construction of a £1.5 billion shopping mall at Stratford City, the new home of the athletes' village for the 2012 London Olympics.

Mr Lowy, estimated to be worth $6 billion (£3bn), established for $AU50 million (£24m) the Lowy Institute for International Policy in 2002 as a gift to Australia on the 50th anniversary of his arrival here. He has also given millions to charities in Israel.

A former board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia, he is also the head of the governing body of football in the country.

There is no accusation that he evaded US tax, but Australian tax authorities have been examining his tax
returns for several months.

Last updated: 11:03pm, July 24 2008