Documents show John Key's personal lawyer successfully lobbied him and Revenue Minister Todd McClay to stop IRD review of Foreign Trust regime, despite IRD concerns Foreign Trusts may hurt NZ's reputation

Documents show John Key's personal lawyer successfully lobbied him and Revenue Minister Todd McClay to stop IRD review of Foreign Trust regime, despite IRD concerns Foreign Trusts may hurt NZ's reputation
Former Revenue Minister Todd McClay talking to journalists in Parliament. He is now Trade Minister.

By Bernard Hickey

Official documents show John Key's personal lawyer, who runs a Foreign Trust law firm, successfully lobbied Key and Revenue Minister Todd McClay in late 2014 and early 2015 to stop an Inland Revenue Department review of New Zealand's Foreign Trust rules that the industry thought could shut it down.

The rear-guard action was fought out through a series of emails, letters and meetings between December 2014 and March 2015 between key players in the foreign trust industry, Key, McClay and Commerce Minister Paul Goldsmith. The partially redacted details from those documents were obtained from a series of Official Information Act requests from the Green Party, as published here.

The first documents disclosed begin with an email to McClay from Antipodes Trust, which is run by executive director Ken Whitney, who is John Key's personal lawyer.

The name of the Antipodes Trust correspondent is redacted in the document. Interest.co.nz has asked Whitney if he wrote the letter, but he has yet to respond. TVNZ has reported Whitney wrote the letter, along with Stuff and NZ Herald.

"I am writing to you on behalf of a group of industry professionals operating in the New Zealand Foreign Trust industry. We are concerned that there appears to be a sudden change of view by the IRD in respect of their previous support for the industry," Whitney wrote in the email dated December 3, 2014.

This followed the publication of a November 2014 document by the IRD signaling a full review of the Foreign Trust regime, given IRD's concerns about the impact on New Zealand's reputation caused by non-disclosure of trusts by 'rogue' operators. The issue blew up again earlier this month with the release of the Panama Papers, which showed Panama's Mossack Fonseca used New Zealand trusts in structuring the affairs of a Mexican property developer and a Maltese politician. The Government initially denied the foreign trust sector needed reviewing, but relented after a week and appointed former PwC tax partner John Shewan to review disclosure.

An industry-penned briefing on the issue that was sent to McClay in December said it was concerned about the review, saying: "It is perplexing that the IRD is now talking about 'shutting down' this industry, when it has carried out no investigation of the industry and its benefits to New Zealand, and has not consulted with the service providers, despite many offers from the industry to do so."

'John told me this is review will not happen'

Whitney broke through to the Minister's office by saying he had met personally with Key, who had told him the Government had no plans for a review.

"I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this and he advised that the Government had no current plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime applying in NZ," Whitney's letter to McClay said.

"The PM asked me to contact you to arrange a meeting at your convenience with a small group of industry leaders who are keen to engage to explain how the regime works and the benefits of an industry which has been painstakingly built up over the last 25 years or so," the letter said.

The documents show that McClay then asked IRD officials to be at a meeting on December 18, 2014 he was having with Foreign Trust industry representatives from Antipodes, Cone Marshall, OliverShaw, an unnamed barrister and Anchor Trustees Ltd. The names of those involved have been redacted, although Interest has asked Whitney if he was present. The meeting was held at Antipodes' offices at Forsyth Tower on Shortland St.

The industry group tabled an agenda paper that noted a potential review of the sector that could see income from foreign trusts taxed.

"This would close the industry down -- these investors can have their funds managed in many other countries that do not levy additional taxes on them," the industry paper said.

"The Group would like a commitment from Government as soon as possible that it will not conduct a public review of the foreign trust tax laws, but will instead direct officials to work with the Group to improve the existing rules and regulatory regime and ensure that in areas such as information sharing New Zealand meets its international commitments," it said.

In the earlier paper sent by Antipodes to McClay, it noted some families and companies who had set up trusts here were concerned: "The recent announcement by the IRD has already resulted in concern by those persons, especially some US family offices that were planning to relocate to New Zealand."

IRD explains why review necessary

For its part, IRD prepared a report for McClay ahead of the December 18 meeting that said the foreign trust sector in New Zealand had attracted criticism internationally, "along the lines that we are a tax haven."

It noted that New Zealand was not a tax haven because tax havens were all about secrecy and New Zealand had information exchange agreements, although it noted its disclosure arrangements for Australian settlors of New Zealand trusts were more robust than with other countries.

"Having said this, the perception that we might be a tax haven is damaging to New Zealand's 'clean' international reputation," an IRD official wrote.

"This can only get worse in view of future developments by the OECD on BEPS, harmful tax practices, beneficial ownership and AEOI (Automatic Exchange of Information)," the official wrote.

"In particular, although the OECD's Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP) and Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Practices and Glogal Forum on Transparancey and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (FHTP) have previously scrutinised our foreign trust rules, and identified no issues with the rules, the FHTP is currently redefining what the OECD sees as an unacceptable tax regime, and New Zealand will be subject to future review on the basis of the redefined criteria."

IRD then detailed its concerns, including around the adequacy of disclosure and record-keeping requirements, IRD's ability to ensure compliance and enforce the rules, and the increasing cost of enforcing the rules when there is no tax to be collected.

IRD worried about secret undisclosed trusts

IRD said there were 8,000 foreign trusts with New Zealand resident trustees that were currently active and disclosed to the IRD, although it said this was a significant under-estimate "because of the existence of structures whose purpose is to defeat the statutory disclosure requirements."

IRD estimated the fees collected by the industry at NZ$24 million per annum on average, with the contribution to the New Zealand tax take from income and GST receipts from trust providers estimated at NZ$3 million per year.

"The next step is for us to discuss with you the merits of adding a review of foreign trusts to our work programme," IRD concluded.

The email trail then goes quiet until a meeting is arranged between tax industry consultants OliverShaw and McClay on February 19, 2015, the details of which are largely redacted. Then a meeting between McClay and IRD officials is scheduled for February 24.

McClay says review won't happen

Finally, an email from May 11 makes clear that McClay has decided not to go ahead with the review and had directed IRD not to go ahead with the review.

A letter dated May 14 from McClay to an unidentified party, but which would appear to be the Trustee Companies Association (an industry lobby group), said he had stated in a mid-December meeting that the Government had no intention of conducting a public and general review of the sector and that it was now not on the IRD's work programme "and my understanding is that officials are not actively working on this matter."

McClay then refers to a meeting between the industry participant and Commerce Minister Paul Goldsmith in March over trust and disclosure rules.

"We have both agreed that, owing to wider Government priorities, we will not be considering regulatory reform of your industry at this stage," McClay writes, adding however that the Government had an ongoing responsibility to consider whether regulatory settings were fostering inappropriate behaviour in other countries.

"It is possible that, in future, this responsibility may require us to review the regulatory requirements applying to different types of investment or business vehicles that can be established under New Zealand law," he said.

"I trust that this provides you and your industry with the certainty needed to continue to do business in New Zealand," he concluded.

NZ Trustee Companies Association pleased with Minister

Another document released showed the NZ Trustee Companies Association wrote to Goldsmith on March 18 saying it held similar concerns to the IRD about 'rogue elements' who might use the New Zealand regime without complying with professional codes of conduct.

The Association warned that non-complying trust operators "could impose significant social costs on New Zealand and inflict damage on internationally competitive business located here."

It then proposed a register of foreign trusts operating in New Zealand and that those trust operators misrepresenting the registration of their trusts could have their tax-free status stripped.

The Trustee Companies document noted it met with McClay on December 16.

"The minister was sympathetic to the industry's viewpoint and assured us that, contrary to some media comment, the Government had no intention of closing the industry down and he was not persuaded that there is a need for a general and public review of the foreign trust tax rules and in particular the current exemption for overseas income earned by foreign trust on behalf of non-residents," the Association wrote.

The email trail ends on May 11 with an email from an IRD official saying that after a meeting with Goldsmith that they had decided that "owing to wider Government priorities, we will not be considering regulatory reform of your industry at this stage."

Greens call for wider review

Meanwhile, Green Co-Leader James Shaw said the documents showed how powerful vested interests could get the ear of the Government and change the plans of the IRD to suit the foreign trust industry.

“I want the Prime Minister to tell New Zealand whether he gave Mr Whitney an assurance that the foreign trusts industry would not be reformed and if so, why he hasn’t been upfront about the assurances he gave," Shaw said.

“Ordinary people, those who care about child poverty or about the environment and want the Government to change its policies, do not get this kind of access or this kind of immediate response to their concerns," he said.

“Today’s revelations point to the need for the new John Shewan investigation into foreign trusts to be broadened to include a panel of experts, and with the opportunity for the public to have a say."

Key acknowledges conversation with Whitney

Key said in statements through his office and to other media that he had met with Whitney, but did not know about the potential review. He denied any impropriety or that it was unusual to discuss the issue, or that Whitney should have relayed their conversation to McClay.

"No, because that happens all the time. There's nothing unusual about it. People ask me about particular issues. I don't live in a vacuum. I do what is absolutely the correct thing to do, which is send them off to the minister. There's nothing I wouldn't have done on a million of other occasions which was to direct them to the minister and let the ministers get on to do their work," Key was quoted as saying by Matt Nippert.

"There was a story in the Herald, he asked me about it, I said to go and see the minister. After that I never had any involvement. I didn't even know what he'd done. I just knew there weren't any changes as far as I knew," Key said.

Key's office later said Key was not involved in any subsequent discussions.

"People raise various issues with the Prime Minister all the time – at events such as school and business visits, and informal gatherings all around the country, as well as in written correspondence. It is common practice for him to refer them to the appropriate minister, where appropriate, or to answer if he is able to do so," a spokesperson for Key said.

"These are just more desperate claims from the Greens," Key was quoted as saying.

"Regarding whether the IRD should have continued to look into the issue of foreign trusts in 2013, as the Prime Minister has said the minister's view at the time was that this would have required IRD to dedicate significant resources to an area which did not affect new Zealand's revenue base and other issues were deemed more important. Also, there is already an ongoing OECD work programme looking into ways to address the issue, which New Zealand is participating in," the spokesperson for Key was quoted as saying by Tracy Watkins.

(Updated with more reaction, comment from Key)

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

112 Comments

Comment Filter

Highlight new comments in the last hr(s).
28
up

gee who would have thought the PM would put money before country

That is an outrageous comment , what evidence is there the PM has put money before the country ?

19
up

Next instalment of the Panama Papers is in 9 days time.

I am surprised that Bernard has put up such an inflammatory headline . Has the IRD really commented publicly as the headline suggests they have ?

Journalist questions: what reassurance did Key give to Whitney before 'redirecting' him to McLay?
What undocumented advice did Key give McLay?
Is it important for a government to pursue an issue for ethical reasons rather than dismiss an issue because there is no money it?

I suspect this is another concerted attack on John Keys integrity , by some politician trying to fly a kite and hoping it will fly

Just like the person who tried to trip him up on his shareholding in Toll , when the Toll register is a public document for anyone to inspect .

John should simply allow a review of what occurred to set the record straight .

The truth is we have allowed foreigners to run trusts here for decades , and there is nothing new in this

Is this all Ken does?

26
up

Is there no conflict of interest here?
When does the smell become too much NZ?

20
up

More corruption? Whoever would have foreseen that.

Who deleted my comment?

I did. See below.

23
up

John Key has gone over the top of the popular curve and is on the downward slope. He will be surprised how steep the slope will get. The things he used to get away with easily will now each be a nightmare.

I doubt it. As long as house prices keep surging, no one will care.

The alternatives to Key are simply too ghastly to even contemplate

Trust me they will care, the tide is turning. The bank of Mom and Pop will vote for NZ interests and gen X and Y should also take a stand you have to too!

Trust me they will care, the tide is turning. The bank of Mom and Pop will vote for NZ interests and gen X and Y should also take a stand you have to too!

Comment and opinion is fine if you have something to say. But lets be sensible about it and keep the wild guesses designed just to smear out of this thread. Please. It's a serious issue and silly 'piling-in' smears will just reduce this discussion to triviality.

16
up

This news in isolation is probably a bit of a storm in a teacup but as part of the bigger picture it is time we stop the shonky money coming to our shores. Why on earth haven't they done something about an extradition treaty with China so we can rid ourselves of these corrupt people that are living here? Let's face up to the reality rather than sweep it all under the carpet.

20
up

So a lobby group backed by the PM, bullied the IRD so they would not look into suspected naughtyness with our foreign trust rules. Very poor form in my opinion and reveals JK does not have NZs best interests at core.

27
up

Can the SIS please suspend John Keys and others passports, including diplomatic immunity until all this business Is revealed and thoroughly investigated ? Thanks,
Kind regards
NZ citizens and taxpayers

Oh for goodness sake , that's an over-reaction if ever I saw one !

Waiting for Bill English's reaction to this as Finance Minister.

21
up

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

28
up

What I wonder is how long those of you in the right wing camp can keep holding out thinking our Commanding Officer is doing a great job as the evidence mounts that he is the fox in a hen house.

This doesnt look great for JK at all. However, Id take him over the whiny, cry baby, do-gooders, luvvies of the red and green team any day.

Your crowd has had a fair suck of the sauce bottle - time for someone else to have a go

Haha - who the heck do you think created the rules of engagement in the first place? The tooth fairy? There is no political party remotely capable of dishing up the right remedies.

I reckon you would to.
says it all about Keys' supporters really. irrational

20
up

Just how deep will this rabbit hole go I wonder? And more importantly...will NZders care enough to do anything

29
up

" The Prime Minister has said the minister's view at the time was that this would have required IRD to dedicate significant resources to an area which did not affect new Zealand's revenue base and other issues were deemed more important."

What possible issues could be more important than NZs international reputation?

The thing that incenses me most about this govt is their moral expediency. They lost my vote the day that it was revealed that Key had leaked classified SIS information to discredit Phil Goff. I have zero tolerance for corruption. Our slide down the corruption rankings saddens me greatly.Bribing the Saudi's, bridges in Northland , wilful blindness to aiding and abetting international tax evasion, dodgy casino deals etc etc. Not good enough!

10
up

Imagine what a forth term would say about us and bring our way!

He's a probable IMHO, not because he's any good but because the loony left look / will look worse than him IMHO.

Just like Hillary..........the alternative looks and sound worse ?

Thee is no chance of getting decent government when the system is at fault.

We need a new political system that works.

What Political system shall we adopt.

Crony Americanism, Bush in the Hand is worth knowing twice.

Putin on the agony.

Great Wall.

Syrian conflicting.

Grecian earning.

North Korean puppetry and big bang theory top notch one.

South Korean Borderline.

Saudi 911 Supporters club.

Spanish Euro and Unemployment Devaluation and re-evaluation Society

German Mercantile Volkswagen Puffed up, but not shut-up Billionaires, Sorry I got caught out.. league.

English, but not as we envisaged it Old Boy Network.

Or the Fair Exchange, is no robbery TPPA style also called the, "Have I got a deal for you Republican Alter-native Party, Brexit Threat Initiative".

Or maybe the Egyptian Pyramid and imported to NZ, type we already have, but with more local input short house stock Policies.

You can add your own...as deemed to fit.

Let the old guard run things. That know from experience. Experience does not come cheap. It is earned.
It doesn't come from sitting in a cafe looking at a phone.

Redacted official documents. The answer lays is in who is charge of ordering the redaction. That's where the power is.

18
up

This is how the NZ government is really run under the nats, backhanders and secret handshakes all round.

Government For Sale

10
up

Justice, I dont think we will ever find out. Things are actually starting to spiral out of control on a number of fronts and the usual sticking plaster treatment wont hold much longer. As mentioned above, when the tide turns it turns and judging by the comments on here in recent weeks it is well and truly turning.

14
up

What we find out will depend on a proactive media and public persistence I guess, and the fact being that none of the NZ media were invited to go through these documents may well be a testament to our current international reputation right there.

19
up

You probably won't get much on it from "Blue TV" (TVNZ), our state broadcaster with Hosking has well and truly become one of the Nats propaganda wings.

I am right wing and cant stand that guy. How has he infected NZs media on most levels?

The media knows which side of the bread is buttered, so nothing to worry ?

..it will be interesting to see if Hoskings ratings drop/follow those of the PM.

How well does Hoskings get on with Winston Peters?

dp

even MSM stuff let comments on this story,
also survey had 57% not happy about NZ being used for foreign trusts to evade their local authorities makes me wonder what kind of country we are becoming if 40+ % thinks it ok

10
up

They're the authoritarians who will excuse absolutely anything if it comes from their chosen authority figures, and mindlessly parrot content-free slogans like 'loony left', and don't give a crap how bad things are so long as it's their 'side' doing it.

The perfect people to target if you're a corrupt scumbag politician eager for a compliant support base, or a religious leader looking for a bunch of dupes who'll keep paying tithes and making excuses even when your multi-decade paedophilia cover-up is revealed..

For NZ'ers, if they cant see it, or can't touch it, or cant feel it, it's OK, it isn't happening

Just wondering, Sheep Shagger, what you mean by 'judging by the comments on here in recent weeks it is well and truly turning'. Thanks.

Just wondering, Sheep Shagger, what you mean by 'judging by the comments on here in recent weeks it is well and truly turning'. Thanks.

Northland4me, just my observation as a regular follower of this site over a long period of time. The strength of this site is it attracts genuine debate on mainly economic issues from well informed and independent thinking individuals. Unlike the political sites that tend to be blinkered along party lines. Many of these commentors are expressing a level of exasperation with the govts inertia on a number of fronts and have indicated they are looking for political alternative.

Dodgy politics....

Some might even say 'dirty politics'. Who could have known!?

10
up

Interesting to see the frank insight of experts, presumably little knowing then just how soon it might be revealed as foresight:

  • The IRD's 2014 report said the foreign trust sector in New Zealand had attracted criticism internationally "along the lines that we are a tax haven", adding that "the perception that we might be a tax haven is damaging to New Zealand's 'clean' international reputation", and that "this can only get worse in view of future developments by the OECD" against which NZ would be judged to higher standards "redefining what the OECD sees as an unacceptable tax regime."
  • The NZ Trustee Companies Association "held similar concerns to the IRD about 'rogue elements' who might use the New Zealand regime", and "warned that non-complying trust operators "could impose significant social costs on New Zealand and inflict damage..."
  • The Revenue Minister noted the Government's "ongoing responsibility to consider whether regulatory settings were fostering inappropriate behaviour..." [as tax free offshore trusts continued to be established by foreigners].

Effective policy change options were available then, as they probably were several weeks ago as discussed on this site, for slightly repositioning as a demonstrably clean industry (and potential competitive advantage), but one wonders now if the environment might be heading towards the sort of knee-jerk policy responses that the industry might rather rue a blinkered "all or nothing" perspective which seems to have permeated much of the thinking then (except those as above already deciphering the writing on the wall), and now (on both sides of the political debate).

More nuanced policy settings might perhaps have met the real concerns noted above, and although couldn't have been predicted then, might even have helped position New Zealand above the fray into which we seem now to have stumbled, blinkers still firmly attached, hardly noticing we've stirred up some waves in the baby's bathwater.

Hopelessly mangled metaphors aside, interesting times. Not least because it's now slightly more difficult than yesterday to predict just where things might now end.

15
up

Corruption. Doesn't matter how much lipstick is on it, a pig is still a pig.

Can anyone pull out previous international standings on corruption? I had someone suggest to me the other day that NZ is slowly slipping further down the list of least corrupt to corrupt countries. Would like to know if it is true?

According to transparency international we have dropped 2 places in the last 2 years in the international corruption index.

Corruption is not a static thing

If all the other countries are becoming more corrupt, while at the same time NZ is slipping down the ranking ladder then, QED, corruption in NZ increasing at a greater rate

If you read the report you will find that, globally, corruption as a whole decreased.

Nicky Hager is allegedly working on a new book. "Fifty shades of Shady"

10
up

Back in January this was published...
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/76317907/nzs-anticorruption-record-slipp...

"New Zealand is slipping down the ranks of the least corrupt countries, with watchdog Transparency International accusing the Government of "astonishing" complacency."

Maybe that is the ex bankers legacy :)

Keeping with the animal theme to avoid further censorship. This is a question for you lawyers out there. Can a duck be the beneficiary of a trust that is owned by a company in another duck pond, say somewhere in South America?

...typically a trust is not owned by a company, the company will be owned by a trust. Pretty much anything is possible with a trust...that is why they use them. Even locally you can be settlor, beneficiary trustee and hold power of appointment or removal of trustees (hence retaining control)...they are an excellent beast for tax avoidance and creditor defeating. NZ has an estimated 3-400k of these...more per head than anyhwhere in the world...that should tell you somehting.

Funny, a thing no one trusts really is called a Trust...

We need term limits (max two terms) or time limits (max 8 years) for PMs in New Zealand.

It is in most ordinary people's nature that powers goes to their heads after a while. Key is clearly thinking that New Zealand is a sandbox for him and his ilk and we should just pay tax and shut up. 20 million on a moronic beach towel campaign. 50 million for his 750 guests from Syria for their first two years alone. Who the f- does he think he is? He has to serve us and not vice versa.

I suspect that John Key Has always been a pretty dodgy character. It has just taken this long for the veneer to wear thin and allow a few glimpses of what he is really like.

Terms are a great idea so long as they stop creating jobs for out of work politicians

wow poll on paul henry says 64% think JK has nothing to answer for, even paul was surprised by that

Reason being that many Kiwis actually admire the guy. FX wheeler-dealing got him riches, fancy houses in fancy places and PM on his CV. Dont you just have to love it?

Too dumb to understand that he ripped his ill-gotten fortune out of all of us.

Ritchie will be getting a call, he was on talking about the salvos helping the poor in NZ, and how we need to do more for the people at the bottom of society .
not a good look for a advisor to up high
I have conservations with J K disciples where I point out what has done time after time, but it all comes back to yeah but hes rich and successful and I think wow
to me his is a good salesman whos number one priority is his own ambition so whatever it takes to further his cause or those close to him he is very comfortable doing, even at the expense of good judgment

I am not at all surprised by the 64% , its just like Nicky Hager , the shares in TraNZrail ( with a public share register ) and Shane Jones trip to Aussie to see if John Key caused the GFC .........just another ill-conceived smear campaign .

I have NOT seen any link in any press or report linking John Key to this fiasco , other than his lawyer is a member of an association of trust managers

Just demonstrates the IQ level of Pauls audience

the 64% is probably because most people who watch TV are brain dead.

I think poll on Paul Henrys show asnwers your question.

Could have done it on Hoskins or right wing larry on Newstalk zb and got the same answer. A bit like asking fans at an ACDC concert if they like the band playing.

Don't believe it. Well we will see how much they love the guy when he starts his election campaign. Come join us on the street John! "Listen, at the end of the day, I'm comfortable with it....." No, he won't be saying that.

18
up

Another outstanding piece thanks Bernard. Now we know, the IRD was doing it's job. Ups to them. Good on you IRD. The foreign trusts people in NZ however have been protected from the top, by the Nats, who stymied the IRD's call for a review.

This whole thing needs a Royal Commission of Inquiry. I don't believe any rational NZers want us in bed with crooks, providing them hiding places for their money. Those who have engineered this, and profited from it, need to be bought into the open, into public view e.g. did any of these foreign trust operators donate to National??

13
up

So John Key's personal lawyer is the head of a firm specialising in these dubious trusts.
This company is leading the charge to prevent the government tightening up the rules and using it's connection to JK.
JK at other times has enthusiasticly pushed for NZ to become the Switzerland of the South Pacific and gets all excited by the thought of the Jersey island trust activity.
He tries to assure us that his personal finances are honest and above board. They may very well be within the letter of the laws that he has clearly made sure continue to favour these activities. However I think that we can safely suspect that he is up to his gills in these activities personally. Based on this and a long list of other stuff, he is a very dodgy fellow and not suitable to be PM. Our version of Silvio Berlusconi.

12
up

It's years that I've been saying this. I escaped Italy's Berlusconi and here I found the same guy, just without the underage prostitutes (apart from the pony-tail story, that is alarming!)

btw MSM in Italy is much better and this would have been called corruption, because it is.

Interesting that you made the same comparison, even more so as you have lived under both regimes.
New Zealanders are a funny lot when it comes to corruption in high places. We would rather believe anything else and make all sorts of excuses for it rather than face up to the facts. Our reactions to the revelations prior to the last election illustrated this. I think that it must be somehow tied up with our self effacing anti tall poppy attitude.
Re the call girls etc. He is still relatively young; give him time. The thing about corruption and loss of moral compas is that it tends to eventually infect all aspects of the individual.

Too much deference to anyone wearing a sharp suit. Dudes in suits get an easy ride through the justice system, even for really serious white collar crime.

I'm skeptical about the whole 'tall poppy' thing. I think it's a bullcrap silencing tactic to shut down any rebellion against the status quo and failure to defer to one's supposed betters. And it doesn't happen to real achievers.

Any criticism of Max Key's legitimately mockable cut-rate Kardashian antics and ridiculous pseudo-gang-signs on instagram and there's an outbreak of sycophantic bleating about tall poppy syndrome. But I've never heard the 'tall poppy' stuff leveled at anyone who's genuinely self-made and actually achieving things. Nobody's mocking Taika Waititi's supposed tall poppy status, because he actually earned it.

Yes I'm always surprised how much slack Kiwis give to people in power, be it the boss or the politician. Kiwis think of themselves as feisty but I rarely see someone stand up to the boss or even say something bad about him. Unless there's some booze involved

In New Zealand there is no such thing as corruption we only have Perks and crony capitalism.

Chris M , you are getting carried away now .

There are probably hundreds of lawyers who do trust work and have been doing so for the past 20 years ( 10 of which were under Helen Clark)
There is no evidence that the IRD are being prevented from tightening up the rules , they are obliged to do that by statute , including compliance with the provisions of our anti-money laundering Act which was recently passed .

Spin, spin first and if it doesn't work, spin some more...

Funny I chanced upon this just today....

"No man has ever yet been hanged for breaking the spirit of a law." - Grover Cleveland

They hang the man
And flog the woman
Who steal the goose
From the common
And let the greater villain loose
Who steals the common
From the goose.

(Old English saying)

Well just going back to how NZ is slipping in the global anti-corruption charts, here's another old saying :-

'Sleep with fox, expect fleas'.

Our major trading partners are very far down the anti corruption charts.

http://www.transparency.org.nz/images/2016/CPI2015_map%20and%20country%2...

I am not a lawyer, but shouldn't the headline actually be "Documents show John Key's trust manager and former lawyer... as the Law Society does not support the description of people who have given up their practicing registration as Lawyers?

This is just a storm in a teacup.

1) We have had foreign owned trusts here for years including under Labour and we have robust tax laws , and Anti-money laundering legislation that could see offenders and colluders jailed
2) There is no evidence John Key has done anything wrong
3) The IRD is an independent body , and has probably reviewed its processes and procedures in relation to the anti-money laundering laws phased in last year .
4) The IRD does not need John Key to do this for them or give them the say -so to do what it is mandated to do .

The IRD were advised by their minister to focus on other matters,
it smells, acquaintance of the PM contacts him who puts him in direct touch with the minister so he can lobby against something IRD are worried about.
we dont what was said to whom verbally or what implicit instruction was given.
But if your boss rocked along to you and said hey i want you to do my mate here a favour what would you do

Focus on higher priority matters

Yes, planning on how to do the same with less staff - cutting 1500 staff, or 25% of IRD work-force by 2018. It's all in the news, or has everybody forgotten - already

Boatman..you don't need evidence...slur and innuendo with a compliant media is all that is needed for the oppositions character assassination of the PM(as evidenced many of the previous comments on this thread)
It is interesting that Andrew Little is out of the country presently(visiting the troops in Iraq that he didn't support a few months ago)..
The L&G ,s obviously think this is their mortal blow for Key and don't want Andy stuffing it up.
good luck with that..

Your ongoing support of JK is admirable as evidenced above.
But, do you really think this is all squeaky clean given all the evidence so far?

maaaate, whiter than white

Agree Boatman's (3) & (4) and you may well be right on (2) as well. (1) is not really wrong either, but there's important nuance in each of its sub-points, it seems to me:

(a) Foreign trusts have been here for years, under several Govts. Yes. And they continue to offer secrecy for licit and illict uses equally.

(b) We have robust tax laws. Yes, for all kiwis, but NZ foreign trusts are exempt. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and suits many legitimate purposes. Of course it also suits foreigners structuring their affairs to evade taxes elsewhere, using a NZ trust as a handy vehicle along the way. Likewise handy for other illicit uses. Nor do we ask pesky questions (except for Australians, as Australia really wasn't too keen for us to offer a dodgy hideaway for their tax dodgers and others), so our robust tax sharing agreements don't much help either. Can't share what we don't ask for.

(c) AML legislation could see offenders/colluders jailed. Yes. And trust & company service providers are covered, but lawyers and accountants are exempt.

Aaah, looks like the nothing-to-see-here-move-along-and-anyway-the-other-ones-do-it-too-oh-look-over-there-at-that-shiny-thing cover-up cavalry is here.

More left wing anti Key hysteria as in the past it will all turn to nothing Another media beat up

Odd comment. Are you saying the emails obtained are faked and there is nothing to this story and it is all just a loony left media beat up?

no he is saying he could kill kittens in front of children and live TV and he still would not believe he has or is doing anything wrong.
people turned a blind eye plenty in the past as it has lead to some pretty horrible situations for some and countries

Is it really your intention to argue the position that opposition to corruption is a left-wing thing?

....so says Colin Craig?

....so says Colin Craig?

Consider this -
""I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this and he advised that the Government had no current plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime applying in NZ," Whitney's letter to McClay said."
This suggests that John Key stymied the IRD's wish to investigate these trust activities and formulate changes, otherwise the correct/smart thing to do would have been to refer them to the minister without comment.

Then simply take McClay aside and tell him what and how to do it.

Well if the UK can tackle corruption then so can we:-
http://www.transparency.org.uk/publications/paradise-lost/

Paradise Lost: Ending the UK’s role as a safe haven for corrupt individuals, their allies and assets.

Paradise Lost is a thorough analysis of the UK’s role in global corruption, outlining the multitude of ways in which the UK is enabling corrupt individuals to enjoy luxury lifestyles and cleanse their reputations. This includes:

* The ability to buy UK property anonymously through foreign companies.
* The UK’s Overseas Territories offering secretive company ownership
* Lack of powers for law enforcement to seize stolen assets.
* Role of UK based accountants, lawyers, estate agents and other “professional enablers” in making it easy for corrupt individuals to hide their cash.
* An anti-money laundering system that is easy to bypass in order to launder money with impunity.

Key recommendations include:

* Ensure the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies introduce centralised public registers of beneficial ownership, and ensure corrupt individuals cannot buy UK property with impunity.
* Act on unexplained wealth by increasing the capabilities of the UK’s asset recovery regime to seize corrupt funds.
* Fix the flaws in the UK’s anti-money laundering regime – overhauling the supervision of the rules, and prosecuting complicit professional enablers.

Sound familiar....?

And, in the name of sanity, could we please at least match our policies and response to the UK, Australia, Canada etc so that we don't end up with dopey old NZ as the only option remaining and being piled into by all the money launderers who are pulling out of those countries.

Too right. Another week has passed and the government have announced nothing of substance to address the issues that are staring us in the face on a daily basis.

Yep

No, no, the PM has floated a quasi-pseudo idea of a land tax, tentatively to semi-satisfy his Chinese Masters, and semi-satisfy his data analysts/spin doctors who are detecting a ground swell of Auckland electorate concerned about uncontrolled house prices.
The next step will be to call in the black-ops to attack any media who are making a fuss.
Watch for 'stories' appearing in the media setting out the apologetics for high immigration, open house foreign house purchasing, etc.
Then we can all return to normal..

What is normal for NZ? Seems like it is worrying about their stupid house price. The disease of property porn has spread. Like Gohnorea.

The simple solution is to ban all foreign trusts. They are mostly used to hide stuff. And whist they persist, shady stuff will continue. A trust is normally used as a cloak. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.