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  Business   New Zealand gets tax haven tag

New Zealand gets tax haven tag

REUTERS
Published : May 10, 2016, 1:38 am IST
Updated : May 10, 2016, 1:38 am IST

Wealthy Latin Americans are using secretive, tax-free New Zealand shelf companies and trusts to help channel funds around the world, according to a report on Monday based on leaks of the so-called Pan

Wealthy Latin Americans are using secretive, tax-free New Zealand shelf companies and trusts to help channel funds around the world, according to a report on Monday based on leaks of the so-called Panama Papers.

Pressure is mounting on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to take action after local media analysed more than 61,000 documents relating to New Zealand that are part of the massive leak of data from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm. The papers have shone spotlight on how the world’s rich take advantage of offshore tax regimes.

Mossack Fonseca actively promoted New Zealand as a good place to do business due to its tax-free status, high levels of confidentiality and legal security, according to a joint report by Radio New Zealand, TVNZ and investigative journalist Nicky Hager.

Mr Key said it was “utterly incorrect” that New Zealand was a tax haven, adding he was open to changing rules around foreign trusts if advised by a review or the OECD.

“If there’s any need for change in this area, the government will consider it and if necessary, take action,” Mr Key told reporters.

Governments across the world have begun investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful after the leak of more than 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca.

The papers have reve-aled financial arrangements of prominent figures, including friends of Russian President Vladi-mir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain and Pakistan and of China’s President Xi Jinping, and the president of Ukraine.

According to the report, Mossack Fonseca’s main contact in New Zealand was allegedly Roger Thompson, co-founder and director of accountant firm Bentleys New Zealand, the registered office of Mossack Fonseca New Zealand.

Mr Thompson was listed in more than 4,500 Panama paper documents, the report said.

The number of foreign trusts in New Zealand has surged to almost 10,700 this year from less than 2,000 ten years ago, according to Inland Revenue figures quoted in the report.

Mr Thompson said in his experience, the use of trusts for tax evasion was not common and his firm did not assist people to illegally hide assets.

“I think the assumption that all New Zealand foreign trusts are being used for illegitimate purposes is unfounded and based largely on ignorance,” Mr Thompson was quoted as saying by Radio New Zealand.

Location: New Zealand, Wellington