15 Apr 2016

Mossack Fonseca involved in NZ investment application

9:37 am on 15 April 2016

The Minister for Land Information has asked the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to review a decision to allow a land purchase by a person connected to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers.

The massive leak of documents from the firm has shown how some of the world's wealthy use offshore firms to evade tax and avoid sanctions.

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Photo: AFP

Following the news of the leak last week, the OIO started to review its approvals and applications to see if any involved Mossack Fonseca and found the 2014 decision.

The minister, Louise Upston, has asked the office to review the application to ensure it was appropriately assessed and that any concerns were properly investigated.

She said, if any were found, she expected the OIO to take appropriate action.

The OIO was continuing to go through its records to see if any other approvals were connected with Mossack Fonseca.

Earlier on Thursday, in Parliament, Labour's Grant Robertson asked what advice the government had received about the application connected to the firm, which he said was to buy sensitive New Zealand land.

Bill English on the bridge at Parliament.

Finance Minister Bill English Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Finance Minister Bill English said the government was certainly aware of the transaction, but it was not in a position where it could direct the OIO in its investigations.

But he said he would expect the OIO to investigate any questions of good character.

Mr Robertson asked which country did the OIO came from, given the prime minister was aware of the application.

Mr English replied that he did not know.

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

Mr English told Checkpoint with John Campbell that any application would have to go through a thorough and complex process.

"All we know about [Mossack Fonseca] is that it has got people involved in tax issues. That doesn't necessarily mean that the client they have or the person who came and bought the asset wouldn't pass the test.

"That's got to be dealt with under our law and it has to be dealt with fairly and reasonably because it is subject to judicial oversight."

Mr Robertson said the government must show some urgency and, at the very least, demand regular Cabinet briefings on the status of the application.

"That Mossack Fonseca is involved in an application to buy sensitive New Zealand land will be a concern to every New Zealander and, if successful, could further undermine our reputation."

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