"Utterly incorrect" - Prime Minister John Key denies Panama Papers are evidence NZ is a tax haven

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / Greg Bowker

Prime Minister John Key says a second phase of anti-money laundering measures may be brought forward in the wake of the Panama Papers, but denies the papers are evidence New Zealand is a tax haven.

Mr Key was yet to see the information in the Panama Papers, which were given to a grouping of Radio NZ, TVNZ and Nicky Hager a week ago but are yet to be released more widely.

The first of the New Zealand stories ran today and focused on Mossack Fonseca's use of New Zealand as one of its bases since 2013 to set up trusts for foreigners, and structures such as look-through companies.

New Zealand was mentioned 61,000 times in the papers, leading to claims by the journalists who had seen them and Labour leader Andrew Little that it was hard not to conclude New Zealand was a tax haven.

However, Mr Key said that was "utterly incorrect" and insisted New Zealand had a good reputation because it had tax agreements with 109 countries and complied with every request to hand over information.

"So in fact, if you're looking for secrecy New Zealand is the wrong place to come because we are not going to provide that secrecy."

However, despite his initial insistence that the trust regime was a tight shop, he has now signalled the Government would make changes to the disclosure rules if a review by tax expert John Shewan recommended it.

The Government could also bring forward a second tranche of anti-money laundering measures. Mr Key said while it was possible there were rogue trust companies, they had to meet laws, include money laundering laws, and Inland Revenue was recently given $205 million for compliance.

Existing rules already required foreign trusts to be registered and to keep detailed records which could be requested by Inland Revenue and passed on to tax authorities in other countries.

However, United Future leader Peter Dunne, who was Revenue Minister from 2005 to 2013, stopped short of describing New Zealand as a tax haven, but said the papers raised a risk it would be perceived as a tax haven and that was just as dangerous for its international reputation.

Mr Dunne said he was concerned Inland Revenue had not alerted him to the "explosion" in the number of foreign trusts setting up in New Zealand when he was the minister.

Mr Key said a "crack squad" from Inland Revenue were preparing to trawl through the full set of data which will be released at 6am on Tuesday morning. The 11.5 million files were leaked to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung which provided them to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 28 Sep 2016 04:04:05 Processing Time: 865ms