The December 2014 telephone call probably went something like this.
"Gidday John, it's Ken here, you're as usual doing a wonderful job and I was so impressed with your performance a couple of weeks back at APEC in Manila and in particular the international statesman praise you rightly received from Barack Obama and Malcolm Turnbull no less.
"They're impressed, as I am of course, but I've known you for much longer so I feel I can raise this. What's this about a review of foreign trusts?"
"I dunno, nothing happening as far as I understand, but have a word to Todd McClay, you may not have heard of him, but he's the new Revenue Minister and he'll put you right."
"Will do, thanks John."
An email is then fired off to McClay, from John Key's long standing lawyer Ken Whitney, telling him he's spoken with the Prime Minister who has no plans to change the status of foreign trusts and asking what's up? He also suggests a meeting with a small group of foreign trust industry leaders, as recommended by the PM.
The Minister the next day sets up a meeting with them and is then on the blower expressing his concern to IRD about foreign trusts being removed but receives an assurance that it is not going to happen, even though its subsequent report on them says our international reputation is being damaged because NZ is seen as a tax haven.
Four days later, the meeting with the Minister takes place, not in the Beehive where lobby groups are usually expected to come, but in the lawyers' Auckland offices.
In May of last year the IRD instructs its staff there'll be no further review of foreign trusts because of "wider Government priorities."
So understandably because of the Panama Papers, the blowtorch is once again on foreign trusts and the microscope is on who said what to whom and when.
Ken Whitney's gone to ground, which is convenient for his long term client. John Key said the email sent to his rookie Minister characterising his position on the trusts, misrepresented his view.
He knew nothing, he claims.
To accuse a lawyer of misrepresentation is one serious thing, but the next day to accuse him of being sloppy and noting that sometimes people write things that are shorthand, is quite another for a meticulous lawyer.
But at least the lawyer's multimillion-dollar foreign trust industry hasn't been short changed, for now.
And that's politics, Gangnam style!
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