Matt Nippert is a business investigations reporter.

Panama Papers: Majority of Kiwis 'concerned' about New Zealand's new reputation

The Panama Papers were an unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Photo / Getty Images
The Panama Papers were an unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Photo / Getty Images

Pressure over the Panama Papers on the Government is rising after a poll showed a majority of New Zealanders were concerned about the country's new reputation as a tax haven.

An announcement by international investigators said details of hundreds of thousands of entities, including many with local links, would soon be made public.

A poll by UMR Research, conducted for activist group ActionStation, showed 57 per cent of respondents were "concerned" about New Zealand being a tax haven and the misuse of our foreign trust regime for tax evasion purposes. Just 23 per cent said they were "not concerned" about the issue.

ActionStation spokeswoman Marianne Elliot said the results of the poll spoke for themselves.

"A majority of New Zealanders are concerned that sloppy trust laws, left open by the current and former governments, have allowed the world's rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Most New Zealanders are not satisfied with the Government's current response," Elliot said.

Revelations in the Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, has seen the Prime Minister of Iceland resign and his counterpart in the United Kingdom, David Cameron, endure one of his worst weeks in office following concessions he profited from his late fathers' Panamanian trust fund.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who received the leaked Mossack Fonseca materials, said today it would on May 10 make public a database of more than 200,000 offshore entities set up through the Panamanian firm.

The public release will feature numerous New Zealand connections including shell companies, foreign trusts and New Zealanders as clients.

One source who has been dealing directly with the Panama Papers said "hundreds, if not thousands" of New Zealand-registered foreign trusts had been set up for Mossack Fonseca clients, many by boutique Dutch tax law firm Infintax.

Infintax advertises international trusts on its website as "an excellent investment platform for wealthy individuals and their families".

Infintax did not respond to requests for comment about its New Zealand business.

The firm told Dutch media, where it was identified following the leaks as a business partner of Mossack Fonseca, that it had done nothing wrong but declined to comment further.

Mossack Fonseca has issued a similar statement insisting their work setting up offshore entities was "legal and common".

The UMR poll, of 750 people between April 14 and 18 and with a margin of error of 3.6 per cent, also asked respondents how they thought the Government had handled the fallout from the Panama Papers and whether they thought the review of foreign trusts by former PWC chairman John Shewan, was an adequate response.

Nearly half, or 46 per cent of respondents, said the Government was handling the issue poorly, with only 21 per cent saying it was being handled well. And more than half, or 52 per cent of respondents, said the Shewan review was an inadequate response to the issue.
Elliot called on the Government to listen to what the poll was sayings.

"Our members, like most New Zealanders, believe a full public, independent enquiry is needed to restore public confidence, tighten our laws and close the loopholes that allow this to happen."

Responses were broadly split along lines of political party support, with Labour, Green and New Zealand First voters strongly critical of the governments' handling of the issue.

However 40 per cent of National Party votes described themselves as "concerned", more than the 36 per cent who said they were "not concerned", about the tax haven tag and the misuse of foreign trusts.

- NZ Herald

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