Mossack Fonseca's man in New Zealand denies any wrongdoing
The man behind Mossack Fonseca's registered New Zealand office – Bentleys Chartered Accountants – says New Zealand's role in the Panama Papers has been "grossly exaggerated."
Bentleys director Roger Thompson also says, "Looking at the data, it seems that a relatively small number of trusts or companies have been established in New Zealand that are related to Mossack Fonseca. In fact, New Zealand does not feature in the 10 top jurisdictions. See the chart labelled "The 10 most popular tax havens in the Panama Papers."
He also says, "We comply with all New Zealand laws including anti-money laundering laws." His company vets clients and has co-operated with a "small number" of requests from Inland Revenue.
"I don't see New Zealand as a tax haven. I would describe it as a high-quality jurisdiction for trusts with a benign tax system in certain circumstances," he says
"I think the assumption that all New Zealand foreign trusts are being used for illegitimate purposes is unfounded and based largely on ignorance. Due to the information-gathering powers of the IRD, I would expect that those looking to use trusts for tax evasion or other illegitimate purposes would choose alternative jurisdictions with secrecy laws."
The Bentleys director says although described in articles today as a former IRD official, "I worked for Inland Revenue for a relatively short period after graduating from university over 30 years ago."
Mr Thompson's comments came in written responses to questions from RNZ as part of a combined investigation by RNZ and TVNZ reporters, plus Nicky Hager.
Stories on TVNZ and RNZ do not allege any laws were broken by Bentleys. They land no hard punches but do say Mossack Fonseca actively promoted New Zealand as a tax haven and that New Zealand was at the heart of a "Panama money-go-round."
Former Revenue Minister Peter Dunne says the latest Panama Papers information raises potentially serious concerns and, once analysed in more depth, could mean the scope of John Shewan's independent inquiry needs to be widened. (Read more of Mr Dunne's comments in Blind eye or eye off the ball? Dunne says IRD never briefed him on foreign trust 'explosion' while he was Revenue Minister).
IRD team on standby, PM says
On Saturday, after it was revealed a controversial Mexican construction tycoon apparently has $US100 million in three New Zealand-based trusts, plus allegations by the Panama Papers source that Prime Minister John Key has been "silent" about tax avoidance activity involving the Cook Islands, Mr Key again denied New Zealand was a tax haven.
On Sunday, however, he did add that Inland Revenue would chase down any leads in the leaked Panama Papers data after it's made publicly searchable on Tuesday.
"If there's a New Zealand individual who is identified that's come out of the Panama Papers release who hasn't paid their fair share of tax, they should expect a knock on the door," Mr Key said.