Sir John Key defended his government's approach to international finance after a massive leak of confidential records raised new questions about how foreigners used New Zealand-based legal structures to hold their assets.
Papers, which launches today, is a major international collaboration by around 150 media outlets including the Herald that reveals how the rich and powerful move money around the globe.
The investigation shines new light on New Zealand's small but significant role in the offshore industry, revealing details of dozens of wealthy foreigners who used New Zealand-registered trusts to hold assets outside their home countries and how the trustees managed their affairs.
It is set to reignite a debate about New Zealand's regulatory regime that exploded in 2016 when a previous major leak, the Panama Papers, revealed how the trusts had been used by many overseas residents.
"I was asked on many occasions after the Panama Papers if this made New Zealand a tax haven," Key told the Herald after the latest leak.
"I stand by what I said, that I don't believe it did or does."
Key declined to be interviewed but provided a written statement to the Herald defending his government's record in relation to the foreign trust industry.
The former National leader, who won three general elections and was prime minister for eight years from 2008, was broadly supportive of the financial sector while he was in power. But when the Panama Papers broke in 2016, he ordered an inquiry into foreign trusts.
The Shewan report found that the disclosure rules relating to foreign trusts were inadequate, "light-handed", and inconsistent with New Zealand's reputation as transparent and relatively free of corruption.
Key said that New Zealand foreign trusts held offshore money for offshore clients and their use did not threaten the New Zealand tax base.
He was driven by a wider desire to diversify the New Zealand economy.
"I had for years given speeches that argued New Zealand had to create new industries away from food production, becoming the 'Switzerland of the South' was just one of them. To this day I remain a supporter of this concept."
Key said risks to New Zealand's reputation by the misuse of our offshore structures were manageable.
"It was always my belief this could be done in a way that didn't allow New Zealand to be used by people or organisations that would do so for illegal purposes or with ill-gotten gains. Again I remain of the view that this is credible and possible," he said.
He denied that New Zealand's regulation of foreign trusts had been insufficient before the Panama Papers revelations.
"All rules and regulations change and very often improve over time," Key said. "The Shewan review highlighted areas that called for improvement."
The Panama Papers was also co-ordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It exposed millions of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The Pandora Papers provides even more information about the offshore world, revealing nearly 12 million documents from 14 offshore providers.