18 Apr 2016

Character test central in Panama Papers link

10:26 am on 18 April 2016

A review of a land buy in New Zealand by someone connected to law firm Mossack Fonseca is likely to focus on the good character test, acting Prime Minister Bill English says.

Finance Minister Bill English answers questions about the payroll issues on 8 March 2016 at Parliament.

Finance Minister Bill English answers questions about the payroll issues. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Questions were asked in Parliament last week about a decision in 2014 to allow someone with links to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers leak, to buy land in New Zealand.

Minister for Land Information Louise Upston asked the office last week to review the application and ensure it was appropriately assessed and that any concerns were properly investigated.

Mr English told Morning Report purchasers needed to meet 23 tests under the Act.

"When a purchase is made those tests all have to be passed. It includes a good character test. A good character test applies continuously, so it's not just when the land is purchased, it's also applied after a purchase

"In principle that's probably what they'll be looking at - to make sure the purchaser still passes the test."

Mr English said the Overseas Investment Office would be getting more resources to make sure people were sticking to the criteria.

"There's been discussions with the office recently about beefing up their capacity to ensure that conditions that are applied at a purchase continue to be monitored and complied with and that will of course include the good character test."

The test determines whether the investor has any previous offences or contraventions of the law, as well as "any other matter that reflects adversely on the person's fitness to have the particular overseas investment".

Labour's Grant Robertson asked Mr English in Parliament last week which country the application had come from, but Mr English said he did not know.

It was also unclear exactly what Mossack Fonseca's involvement was and what company made the application.

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