An independent inquiry to review the Overseas Investment Office's process for assessing good character will now be conducted by Wellington barrister Peter McKenzie QC, because Terence Stapleton QC is no longer available to carry out the review, the OIO's parent body Land Information New Zealand said.
Assessing 'good character' is one of the hurdles any foreign investor must clear before being able to buy 'sensitive' New Zealand land, usually farmland. The review is being conducted after Taranaki's Onetai Station was sold, on the OIO's advice, to Ceol & Muir, a company established with the help of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca at the centre of the global tax evasion document leak known as the Panama Papers.
The company was ultimately owned by Argentinian businessmen brothers Rafael and Federico Grozovsky. The pair is alleged by Labour MP David Cunliffe to have been held criminally liable by the Argentine courts for polluting a river near a tannery they own.
Despite the change of QCs, the report is still expected to be completed by June 15.