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Peters' winebox features as accounts of 2.5 million offshore banking files leaked

NBR staff
Sun, 07 Apr 2013

New Zealand's "winebox" case features in reports about a leak of 2.5 million files detailing the offshore bank accounts of tens of thousands of people.

The files were leaked by to a Washington DC group called The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which in turn worked with newspapers including the Washington Post, The Guardian and Le Monde to analyse then publicise the files.

The files have a number of New Zealand ties.

Investigations resulting from the leaks focus heavily on TrustNet, founded in the Cook Islands and now headquarted in Singapore, and which was once part-owned by Waiheke Island-based NBR Rich Lister John Spencer.

And reports on the Cook Islands' role have brought up the so-called winebox affair of the 1980s, and the exposure of a scheme that saw a Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite company, European Pacific, pay the Cook Islands government $2 million tax then later have the money returned minus a $50,000 fee. European Pacific was given a tax certificate that did not discluse most of the money had been returned. This certificate could in turn be used to claim a tax-write down in New Zealand. No one was convicted after Winston Peters tabled documents (pulled from a winebox) in parliament exposing the scheme, sparking an inquiry, but rules were tightened.

Reports also highlight that Trevor Clarke, an ex-pat lawyer, played a part in the winebox affair, went on to become chairman of a Cook Islands regulatory commission from 2003 to 2010. Another expat involved in events during the winebox era, Geoff Barry, went to work for TrustNet in Hong Kong.

The Consortium says around $US21 trillion or around a third of the world's weath is stowed in offshore tax havens.

Reports in UK, US, German and other papers feed off the Consortium's work to expose some of the inner workings of the international banking system, and name some of those who are using it to minimise tax in their home countries - such as (according to The New York Times) the daughter of the former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and Denise Rich, the former wife of the disgraced trader Marc Rich, who was pardoned by President Bill Clinton. 

But, so far, embarrassment is as far as the damage caused by the leak goes. There have been no major allegations of illegal behaviour.

NBR staff
Sun, 07 Apr 2013
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Peters' winebox features as accounts of 2.5 million offshore banking files leaked