6 Apr 2016

PM wanted NZ to become 'Jersey of the South Pacific'

7:17 pm on 6 April 2016

Prime Minister John Key is not shying away from comments he made before he became Prime Minister that he wanted New Zealand to be more like a British dependency, well-known as a tax haven, in order to grow the economy.

John Key addresses the media after confirming funding for Auckland's City Rail Link.

Prime Minister John Key Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

In 2005, while an opposition MP, Mr Key told the New Zealand Herald he wanted New Zealand to become the "Jersey of the South Pacific", to encourage the growth of an offshore banking industry.

Mr Key continues to defend New Zealand against accusations it is acting as a tax haven for some of the world's wealthy, following the massive dump of documents about the business of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

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    Mr Key was asked whether, in light of the publicity as a result of the Panama papers, he stood by his comments.

    "I think there's a role for New Zealand to play in providing financial services, it has to meet its obligations... We have very strict obligations when it comes to disclosure and we meet those obligations.

    "We're always prepared to look and enhance those obligations and change those if there are recommendations."

    Mr Key said overseas jurisdictions wanting information about foreign trusts could just ask, and in most cases New Zealand would co-operate.

    But opposition parties have questioned his assertion New Zealand has full disclosure, as the trustees have to provide very little information to authorities.

    Mr Key told Parliament that was not the case.

    Opposition MPs said publicity surrounding the release of the Panama papers was damaging New Zealand's reputation.

    The leaked papers were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

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