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BusinessDesk: Power tightens up company registration rules, cracks down on cartels

BusinessDesk: Power tightens up company registration rules, cracks down on cartels

Outgoing Commerce Minister Simon Power is keeping up his whirlwind of legislation, tabling more bills today, this time to crackdown on company registration and criminalising cartels.

The minister tabled the Companies and Limited Partnerships Bill in Parliament today, which will force foreign companies to have a local resident agent if they don’t have a New Zealand director. The bill will also grant the Registrar of Companies greater powers to probe and deal with non-compliance, and allow them to be removed for persistent failure.

“New Zealand has an international reputation as one of the best and most trusted places in the world to do business,” Power said in a statement.

“However, that is threatened by overseas interests using New Zealand-registered shell companies to undertake criminal activity.”

The new legislation comes a day after Power introduced the Financial Markets Conduct Bill, which will overhaul the nation’s decades-old securities law.

The new bill will make similar changes to the Limited Partnerships Act, which came to officials’ attention when Christchurch businessman Bernard Whimp used the structure to make low-ball offers to shareholders as a way to circumvent his ban from being a company director.

Power also tabled the Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Bill today, which will introduce the criminalisation of price collusion in a bid to deter hard-core cartel behaviour.

“Current fines for cartel behaviour are seen by some as just a cost of doing business, but I believe the threat of up to seven years’ imprisonment and the implications of a criminal record will be a powerful disincentive to engage in such behaviour,” Power said.

The crackdown follows revelations that 143 New Zealand registered companies had been implicated in criminal activities overseas, including money laundering and tax fraud. The included Panamanian interests commiting fraud in Britain.  See Gareth Vaughan's article here.


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