8 Apr 2016

NZ tax haven image 'damaging' - Greens

1:16 pm on 8 April 2016

An assessment by a journalist involved in the Panama Papers leak that New Zealand is a tax haven is extremely damaging for the country's reputation, says the Green Party.

ICIJ director Gerard Ryle

ICIJ director Gerard Ryle Photo: AFP

New Zealand-based foreign trusts have been caught up in the data leak exposing Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca's role in providing financial anonymity to the world's rich.

The leaked papers were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). They showed a connection to foreign trusts in New Zealand.

ICIJ director Gerard Ryle told Morning Report that New Zealand was a tax haven and a front for people who wanted to hide their money.

"We've been looking at this whole issue of tax havens for a number of years, and it's well known among people who know these things that New Zealand is a really soft touch. it's very easy to set up companies, it's a first world country, so people don't think of bad things happening in New Zealand, so it's a very nice front for criminals."

He said Mossack Fonseca was active in this country, and that claims from government ministers that New Zealand was not a tax haven were "rubbish".

"The bottom line is, it's a very easy jurisdiction to operate in, and it's very secretive. I think the only good thing about the companies register there is that it's free to search, so as a journalist you can go in and search for free, unlike Australia, for instance, where you've got to pay a lot of money to follow the trail."

Greens co-leader James Shaw said it was clear people were using New Zealand's foreign trusts to evade tax.

"And it's kind of the tax haven you go to when you don't want to use a tax haven, because of our international reputation of being clean and above board, the fact that we are secretive makes it even better as a tax haven than, say, Panama or the Islands."

Mr Shaw said the government needed to stop denying that there was a problem.

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