Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Panama Papers: Lessons learned for Government says John Key

Prime Minister John Key said the public release of the Panama Papers this week was "far less explosive" for New Zealand than anticipated.

However, the Government had still learned some lessons about its offshore trusts regime as a result of the papers, and was likely to make some changes, he said.

"I've said from day one that if there are things we need to learn from, and changes we need, to make sure we enhance and maintain our reputation we will do that."

One of those changes could be a publicly accessible register which showed who the beneficial owners of New Zealand companies, trusts, and assets were -- including people overseas. The register was raised by Police Minister Judith Collins overnight at an anti-corruption summit in London, and included in New Zealand's communique.

It prompted accusations of a Government U-turn from Labour leader Andrew Little, because the Prime Minister had said last month that New Zealand already had "full disclosure" in relation to foreign trusts.

"After weeks of the Prime Minister claiming our foreign trust industry has full disclosure of ownership and saying for years that there is no need for a register of foreign land sales, Judith Collins has told the world that National is investigating changes to stop people hiding their assets," he said.

Mr Key would not be drawn on whether the Government was considering a public register as a direct result of the Panama Papers.

He said that it was raised in a special OECD meeting of tax officials in Paris last month, and was being pushed by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"If the world adopts a register, New Zealand will certainly be fulfilling its obligations and will happily be doing so."

The Inland Revenue Department has this week been reviewing the Panama Papers database published online by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

It had found 200 New Zealand entities which were linked to controversial law firm Mossack Fonseca, all of which had been disclosed to IRD.

"In a way, New Zealanders can take confidence that the tax system is working," Mr Key said.

"It didn't throw up -- from what we can see so far -- a raft of New Zealanders trying to hide money offshore.

"It doesn't mean that there aren't learnings that come out of the papers and changes that might need to happen."

- NZ Herald

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