Maybe I've been watching too much Breaking Bad. I was at a stationery shop, and I saw those tiny, tiny resealable bags. And I wondered: who buys such tiny resealable bags?
What office supply would you put in it? A single eraser? Two paper clips? Check them out: Those bags are the right size for the retail quantity of a classified substance. At the bag factory, do they joke about this bag size? Do the bags have a nickname? What does the manufacturer tell themselves about the use of these bags? Is there a single non-criminal use for them?
Then the Panama Papers broke. And I wondered the same thing about a foreign trust: is there a single non-criminal reason, even one, to have a foreign trust? Like, why were they invented? Who invented them? The answers I've been seeing are non-answers: Foreign trusts are legal. Or, they're not illegal. Or, they're not illegal, if done right, by certain expert law firms, in the right jurisdiction. And, everyone does it. In other words, "Don't hate the playa, hate the game."
Foreign trusts are protected by centuries of legal tradition, of rich people hiding wealth that would instantly raise eyebrows. A Russian cellist, for example, somehow has $2 billion dollars. That is a very successful musician. Bono and Keith Richards are probably kicking themselves for not learning the cello. No doubt in Russia, demand for cello lessons has gone through the roof. Coincidentally, this cellist is best friends with Vladimir Putin. But so what? Is friendship a crime?
Some are saying this law firm should have asked some questions about how this cellist made his money. But does a law firm in Panama receive fees for asking personal questions?
No, they earn fees by solving problems for clients, not being all up in their grill with privacy invasions.
And besides, who has time to ask questions? This law firm's been too busy shopping, replacing their IT department with typewriters and carbon paper. From that stationery shop that sells the little bags. As best I can figure, a foreign trust is a magic cloak of invisibility. The law of trusts is its own gospel, requiring belief in things that are at once law and not law, honoured by centuries of scoundrels wanting to hide wealth.
It's amazing how much faith wealth can inspire. Lamborghinis and superyachts raise questions. A smarter policy is: "If you've got it, hide it."
Fertilised by demand, genetically modified to stay ahead of the times, foreign trusts have evolved to defeat all scrutiny. The richest people in the world want them, and they can afford to create entire countries that provide nothing but, so who can afford to fight that? The fact that so many of the people wrapped up in the Panama Papers are in government shows there's no political will to change the situation. Every country is in on it, at the expense of every country.
If there was a Nobel Prize for lawyers, these lawyers would win it. Foreign trusts are black holes - invisible, zero-taxed singularities of legal physics. The difference is, scientists are looking for black holes. Governments don't want to know about foreign trusts.
Our PM and Tax Minister have both said there's full disclosure in our foreign trust regime. I think full disclosure means zero disclosure. My impression is that the only disclosure required is the name of the NZ puppet (who I'll call "the stooge") who agrees to play the role of trustee. The NZ Government doesn't want to know what assets (I'll call it "loot") are vested in the trust; who the beneficiary is of the trust; or the identity of the person (according to me, the "criminal") who transferred those assets to the trust.
This information exists, written in the trust deed, but this document is secret and untouchable within the the office of the lawyer (my technical description, the "scammer") who set up the foreign trust ("scam").
It seems to me it doesn't matter if the loot is containerloads of cash, dripping in blood from the exit wounds of your competing drug cartel, or an arms deal that would be illegal if anyone found out, or if the money comes from the treasury of that country of which you are president - the New Zealand Government won't embarrass you with questions. Apparently none of these details are our business. After all, it's not like anyone's accusing you of infringing Hollywood copyright.
Instead, I believe our tax regime politely and discreetly offers you a bucket of soapy water, a sponge, and after you're done, an opaque, temperature-controlled box to keep the money dry. Welcome to New Zealand: 100% pure.
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