I warned that New Zealand would be used as a tax haven on October 26th, 2011, if the National government was reelected.
Never did I expect we would be proven right in such a spectacular fashion as via the Panama Papers leak.
A leak that has shone light on an agenda to use New Zealand as a port of safe harbor for vast swathes of foreign cash. An agenda that does not stem solely from the ruling party. It comes from on high.
From the description of the above video, posted in April 2014:
Last month, the kiwi government tabled a bill that would remove the current 28% tax rate on income incurred by non-residents investing in funds held in New Zealand.
The move by the government is the latest to entice investors to domicile assets on its shores. A year ago, prime minister John Key, a former Merrill Lynch banker, created a focus group to examine how the nation could become more welcoming to foreign assets and enlisted consultant Oliver Wyman to examine the country’s options.
The consultancy’s recommendation was to market New Zealand as a funds domicile in the Asia-Pacific region.
As depicted in “House of Cards,” even at Presidential level, the real government is who the leaders of countries talk to when they get home at night.
And who they are talking to is people with great wealth, who know damn well what a foreign trust is, and how to use tax havens to their benefit.
Tax havens like New Zealand, run for the last eight years by arguably the most pro-Wall Street, pro-America Prime Minister in generations: ex-Member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, John Key.
New Zealand and the Panama Papers
New Zealand is once again in an uproar and debate is evolving at a swift pace. It was just discovered that it is a laundering haven for drug money and other illicit international funds, and that the personal lawyer of the leader of the country was involved in lobbying to ensure that the legislative status quo with regards to offshore trusts remained intact.
Our already-scandal-plagued Prime Minister is doing his best to cling to power, attempting to sidestep these latest revelations as deftly as he has countless prior instances of mass public indignation – rare moments in which the mostly-cowed and constantly-culled national press corp begin to do their job.
After all, the Panama Papers’ whistle-blower’s recent statement singled out John Key and New Zealand.
— Suzie Dawson (@Suzi3D) May 6, 2016
Because we are a country run by a man who has helped unleash this same agenda upon other countries before, with disastrous effect.
Back in 2011, Ireland was Greece. Being strong-armed by the IMF, bound to Greek-style austerity measures to stave off impending bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy that loomed because of “a mirage driven by clever use of tax-haven rules and a huge credit boom that permitted real estate prices and construction to grow quickly before declining ever more rapidly.”
Guess who was making full use of Ireland to reduce the tax liability of offshore funds on behalf of his wealthy clientele?
How do we know this?
Because he said so.
New Zealand prime minister telling porkies
In an enthusiastic 2005 interview with Fran O’Sullivan of the NZ Herald, then future Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key bragged about how his moving businesses and funds offshore to Ireland had saved his Merrill Lynch clientele megabucks.
From the July 19, 2005 article:
Key is clearly on a roll as he lists the options New Zealand could explore if it decided to abandon outdated ideology and take a more pragmatic approach to growing the economy.
The former investment banker knows what he is talking about.
As head of global foreign exchange for investment giant Merrill Lynch he shifted a considerable amount of his business to Ireland in the mid-1990s to take advantage of a 10 per cent tax rate for foreign investors.
The investment was a runaway success.
“We transferred across the aircraft leasing business, the complex interest rates derivatives business, the entire back office for global foreign exchange and a huge chunk of private clients’ business,” says Key.
By the time he left Europe to head home and stand for the 2001 election as a National candidate, Merrill Lynch had more than 400 staff in Dublin. It now has 700.
It was also paying the equivalent of about $250 million a year to the Irish exchequer for tax and indirectly propping up a swag of top-class Dublin restaurants and bars as its young money-men lived the life of Reilly.
Key words: “Head of global foreign exchange’; Ireland; “… huge chunk of private clients’ business.”
Fran O’Sullivan writes of Key, “But as a former money-man, he is also interested in how Jersey built its economy on the back of offshore trusts.”
However, this doesn’t seem to faze the NZ Herald, which on April 6th, 2016, effectively whitewashed the O’Sullivan article.
While the above “offshore trusts” quote is addressed in a forgiving tone (bizarrely, by being reiterated), there is no mention whatsoever of the “huge chunk of private clients’ business” that Key moved to Ireland for tax purposes as head of global foreign exchange for Merrill Lynch.
Yet by contrast, in this video of his May 9th press conference, Key has the following exchange:
Reporter: The Papers show that a lot of the overseas people are using it for business interests, not connected to inheritance or things that you’ve talked about in terms of opposition parties in countries that are unstable and that sort of thing. What reason would someone, in Mexico for example, using a business deal, have to set up a trust in New Zealand?
John Key: So the first thing you appreciate is that I haven’t seen the papers. So it’s very difficult to comment when I can’t see the individual cases. Nor am I a tax expert so I can’t comment on individual cases. But, for example, apparently there was one case that I just heard someone talking about where the person was Mexican, and had set up a Trust because they were uncertain about Mexican inheritance law, tax law, and that’s legitimate.
In short: He doesn’t know what’s in the Papers, even though he was Minister in charge of the New Zealand equivalent of the CIA. He “isn’t a tax expert” and says he can’t comment on individual cases … but then does.
The exchange continues:
Reporter: There are plenty of examples that just refer to straight business deals. So why would someone with no connection to New Zealand be setting up Trusts here?
John Key: I can’t answer why that is. Well, New Zealand is a jurisdiction which is a good jurisdiction to do that and for all the reasons that we know. That we do have exchange of information, that we do have transparency, that we do meet the highest possible codes, so there’s all sorts of reasons that people might, but you have to go and ask those who establish those why they do that, I’m just not an expert in that area.
So John Key, who moved an “aircraft leasing business, the complex interest rates derivatives business, the entire back office for global foreign exchange and a huge chunk of private clients’ business” to Ireland on behalf of one of the biggest investment banking firms in the world, in order “to take advantage of a 10 per cent tax rate for foreign investors” – an “investment” described as a “runaway success” – is “not a tax expert.”
He claims that the reason all these overseas businesses are setting up accounts in New Zealand is purely because of good compliance and transparency.
Over 10,000 in total – flocking to New Zealand because they want increased compliance and visibility?
My that's a lot of Trusts sprouting up since an ex-Fed/Merrill Lynch bankster took over NZ, 7K+, not a small number pic.twitter.com/Cu8CaC8JTI
— Alan (@alans_world) May 8, 2016
Some professional tax and trust lawyers have been so good as to publish a copy of their submission in support of John Key’s “financial hub” scheme, on their commercial website.
One such example is Christchurch’s Parry Field.
The opening position in their submission is nothing short of astounding. They posit:
One may ask, “Why introduce tax rules that would benefit wealthy foreigners?” We think this is the wrong starting point, and the question should rather be: “Why not?”
Under the sub-heading “Why would any fund manager choose New Zealand?” Parry Field suggest eight answers, and allude to “many more.”
None of which are transparency or high compliance standards, as John Key asserted at his press conference. In fact, they cite a lack of regulations as being part of the attraction:
Regulations imposed by the European Union and other supra-national bodies are making life increasingly difficult for the traditional financial centres.
The cherry on the cake:
The Inland Revenue Department themselves have a different take on why tax fund managers choose New Zealand:
Difficult to square "NZ is not a tax haven" with IRD comment here that tax is main appeal of NZ foreign trusts. https://t.co/mIgCjPK9JY
— Adam Bennett (@AdDeville) April 30, 2016
Back to the press conference, once it is a veteran government apologist asking a question, John Key starts sounding very much like a tax expert.
Barry Soper: Prime Minister it is said that overseas businesses use trusts in New Zealand to avoid tax. Well we’re not undermining our tax base. But is it acceptable that they’re using …
John Key: … It is possible, for people to potentially, through the mismatches of the different tax systems, if they want to be creative and work hard, to significantly reduce their tax liability but in a lawful way. That is at least possible for what some multinationals are doing, and we don’t like that, and we’d like to close that down … but we can’t just magically say, New Zealand is going to stop that, we need other countries to work with us.
So the rest of the world is to blame?
That Key fronted at all for the press conference is reassuring. The previous day he had reportedly missed his regular radio spot for the first time ever.
— Susie Ferguson (@SusieFergusonNZ) May 8, 2016
In New Zealand they call him ‘Teflon John’ and say nothing will stick to him – and this is why: 443 demonstrable lies and counting, and he is still in office.
Analyzing the spin
The predominant narratives coming out in John Key’s defense have all been heard before.
They are being regurgitated because they have worked in the past. He has thus far retained his throne.
The ‘left-wing conspiracy theorist’ slur Key slung about in response to “Dirty Politics” and Moment of Truth, is back.
— CarolynS (@Carolyn_nth) May 8, 2016
— Ryan (@rryanji) May 8, 2016
I called it… RT @MorganGodfery: John Key is running the "Nicky Hager is a well-known left wing conspiracy theorist" line on Breakfast.
— Bounder (@DawgBelly) May 8, 2016
& there it is Nicky Hager is just a left wing conspiracy theorist says KEY. Despite ALL the evidence, NZ's prominence in the #PanamaPapers
— MissBetseyTrotwood (@Suzyiam) May 8, 2016
'Nicky Hager is a well known left wing conspiracy theorist'- bit early for drinking on a Monday, but rules are rules
— Chris (@Lukeurmyson) May 8, 2016
So is “I haven’t read it,” and “I’m not an expert in that.”
Pet commentators – and paid commentators – are hard at work, plugging away at defending the indefensible.
The most notable and obvious of whom are Chris Trotter (yes – this Chris Trotter) and long-time military-slash-financial-industrial-complex propagandist Matthew Hooton.
Hoot's just disclosed to 9 to Noon that he has multiple clients in Law/Trust business. Explains a bit of his behavior on #panamapapersnz
— Ryan (@rryanji) May 8, 2016
Famously implicated in Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics,” and representing clients of a particular ilk that tend to be inconvenienced by Hager’s internationally-acclaimed investigative journalism, Hooton has many axes to grind.
He decries the documents as ‘secret’, and complains about only the journalists being able to see them.
— Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) May 6, 2016
Having apparently forgotten that he complained about only journalists being able to see them, he then complains about them being publicly released too. Hooton conflates the investigation to include all trustees and plays the privacy card despite being ideologically and professionally opposed to everything that actual privacy activists stand for.
Once Nicky Hager would've thought it wrong to publish names & addresses & make allegations against 240,000 ppl without giving evidence.
— Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) May 6, 2016
And yes – this is from the very man who was revealed to have – and admitted to – supplied Nicky Hager’s home address to political operatives with a vendetta against him.
— Giovanni Tiso (@gtiso) October 21, 2014
— Matthew Hooton (@MatthewHootonNZ) October 21, 2014
— Giovanni Tiso (@gtiso) October 21, 2014
The smearing of journalists and interference in their careers is a common theme revealed in the book “Dirty Politics,” and even after its release, the practice overtly continued.
— Michael Gibb (@MikeGibb_) May 8, 2016
So the Prime Minister has told porkies by the hundreds and the chief defenders of his socio-economic group leave much to be desired.
Doctorates vs. Spin Doctors
Whether John Key sticks it out or is finally toppled remains to be seen. At his press conference, the strain was palpable. For, despite his protestations to the contrary, Key is the public face of what is now beyond doubt an international tax haven.
— Tax Justice Network (@TaxJusticeNet) May 10, 2016
According to a Working Paper by Professor Michael Littlewood published by the Auckland University Law School:
The New Zealand tax system is so structured as to allow the country to be used as a tax haven. Specifically, it allows non-residents to use trusts established in New Zealand to avoid the tax they would otherwise have to pay in their home country. This article explains how this works, and asks whether New Zealand law should be changed so as to prevent tax avoidance of this kind or, at least, to make it easier for other governments to prevent it.
As reported by Scoop.co.nz, Dr. Deborah Russell, a Massey University Accounting professor concurs:
[T]he massive document leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca sheds light on New Zealand’s role as an international tax haven.
“It’s shameful for New Zealand to be caught up in international tax avoidance,” Dr Russell says. “The loophole in our laws that allows New Zealand foreign trusts to escape taxation has been known about for years, but nothing has been done to shut it down.
This makes us complicit in schemes to avoid tax.”
Despite the academic consensus that New Zealand is a tax haven, John Key denies it.
The Prime Minister has reiterated his view New Zealand is not a tax haven when questioned about the latest Panama Papers revelations in Parliament today.
At 4:28 in his press conference:
Journalist: Is New Zealand a tax haven?
Prime Minister: Absolutely not.
Astonishingly, he also claims that the world doesn’t care.
Meanwhile, #PanamaPapersNZ hit the international press.
Guys my Nepali friends are reading this in the Kathmandu post and saying they didn't realise how corrupt we are. pic.twitter.com/xUiohnbdAE
— Eileen (@NZNeep) May 10, 2016
"NZ prime place for rich to hide money, Panama Papers allege" – report by Reuters in Thiland's The Nation newspaper: pic.twitter.com/HI7QAOoivU
— Bryce Edwards (@bryce_edwards) May 10, 2016
— Damian Adamski (@damibott) May 10, 2016
New Zealand identified as pivotal for the rich hiding their money in Panama Papers: https://t.co/dUZecCavUR
— ABC News (@abcnews) May 9, 2016
— Emilie (@paintsandsings) May 10, 2016
To Al Jazeera:
Went to get a cup of coffee, glanced at TV and there was Nicky Hager on Al Jazerra #panamapapersnz
— TheSummitiser (@mwehipeihana) May 10, 2016
And … BoingBoing!
— Xeni (@xeni) May 10, 2016
One New Zealand trust has already been associated with Unaoil, a Monaco company under investigation for helping multinationals bribe oil ministers and officials in the Middle East.
If not John Key, then the Prime Minister of Malta may be the second forced resignation of a head of Government as a result of the Panama Papers.
So while the government tries to play it down, it appears that the entire world gets it. New Zealand is a tax haven – a sanctuary for dodgy money dubiously accrued by undesirable people.
NZ is not a foot note in the #PanamaPapers whistle-blower manifesto, on the contrary, NZ is front and center.
— Rangi Kemara (@Te_Taipo) May 8, 2016
— Rangi Kemara (@Te_Taipo) May 8, 2016
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
As much as he’d like to disclaim any liability, not only was the entire scheme of transforming the country into a foreign financial services hub the brainchild of New Zealand’s Grand Poobah himself – there is also a direct connection to his personal network.
On @breakfast this morning we reveal how the PMs lawyer was linked to Mossack Fonseca through to British Virgin Island companies
— Andrea Vance (@avancenz) May 9, 2016
The implication of John Key’s personal lawyer, Ken Whitney, is a saga unto itself.
Now we are told that he was involved in setting up a “sham” trust that is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. A Trust involving backdated documents, and for which Mr Whitney admitted to witnessing a signature that required his physical presence, from half a world away.
In this High Court ruling, his conduct was described as “far from satisfactory” by a High Court judge, who also referred to Whitney’s evidence as being “inconsistent.”
Yet the Prime Minister, in the below video by Stuff.co.nz, is standing by his man. Aside from the blanket denials, perhaps the most remarkable moment is when he tells the assembled reporters “you guys were very careful last night, I think, in your coverage of these matters: the reason you were is because you don’t want to get your asses sued off you.”
The trusts are only half the problem
New Zealand isn’t just being used as a place to stash illicit funds, but as a fake operating base for an array of banking and financial services.
As written in this July 2012 interest.co.nz article:
Although John Key’s official financial services hub may be on the back burners, the unofficial New Zealand financial services sector is still going strong.
The Reserve Bank issued a warning about an entity “also known as Irish Nationwide Bank”:
This is despite the Reserve Bank warning that says: “This entity is not licensed or prudentially supervised by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand or any other New Zealand authority. It is not licensed to provide banking services. Use of the name ‘Century Bancorp’ is not permitted by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.”
Last week’s second warning, in relation to the Elite Banking Group, includes Excalibur Investments Limited and Elite Banking Services Limited, also known as Irish Nationwide Bank. The Reserve Bank said these entities aren’t licensed or prudentially supervised by the Reserve Bank or any other New Zealand authority, and don’t have any physical presence in New Zealand.
Which is “one of about 1,000 shell companies incorporated in New Zealand over three years [that] had been used to carry out banking activities free of regulatory oversight… 143 New Zealand registered companies were implicated, over a four year period, in criminal activities overseas…”
Last year then-Commerce Minister Simon Power said the Reserve Bank believed about 1,000 shell companies incorporated in New Zealand over three years had been used to carry out banking activities free of regulatory oversight and “many” seemed to be undertaking fraudulent activities. Furthermore, Power said 143 New Zealand registered companies were implicated, over a four year period, in criminal activities overseas including smuggling, money laundering and tax fraud, with New Zealand Police and the Customs Service receiving 134 enquiries about them.
Given all the above, it is beyond debate that:
- New Zealand is a tax haven for the benefit of the ultra-rich
- This has scandalised New Zealand’s international reputation
- New Zealand’s prime minister is the living embodiment of it
- His denials to the contrary are hollow and impotent
But this is all part of a much wider issue. One with implications so huge that it is rarely tackled by the news media, who instead focus on small, digestible pieces and never quite get around to confronting the elephant in the room:
New Zealand has been economically, politically, socially and militarily invaded. By our so-called allies.
Few have the guts to admit this, or to confront the reality of it.
Yet deep inside, we can feel it.
New Zealand as we knew it, no longer exists.
The Shire is being burned to the ground.
How that happened, and the global implications will be explored in depth in Part 2 of this article, titled: “The Desecration Of New Zealand.”
Journalists who write truth pay a high price to do so. If you respect and value this work, please consider supporting Suzie’s efforts via credit card or Bitcoin donation at this link. Thank you!
Originally published at Spin Bin.
Content posted to MyMPN open blogs is the opinion of the author alone, and should not be attributed to MintPress News.