3 May 2016

PM denies giving lawyer info on trust changes

4:37 pm on 3 May 2016

The Prime Minister says his lawyer misrepresented him when lobbying the Revenue Minister not to change the rules governing foreign-owned trusts.

John Key during caucus run 1.03.16

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ken Whitney, John Key's private lawyer, wrote to then Revenue Minister Todd McClay in December 2014, saying Mr Key had advised him the government had no plans to change the regime.

Speaking to Morning Report, Mr Key said he did not give Mr Whitney that advice - rather, he told him he did not know of any planned changes.

But Mr Key said people who knew him also had a right to raise any legitimate concerns to ministers.

He said Mr McClay may have been aware that Mr Whitney was Mr Key's lawyer.

"But there were eight people who went to see the Minister as part of an industry lobby group, he is one of those, and they went to raise why they believe it is an important industry."

Mr Key said at the time he was not aware of the outcome of the meeting with Mr McClay.

Foreign trusts, and New Zealand's rules, have been under the spotlight since the release of the Panama Papers, which revealed how Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca orchestrated a worldwide web of companies designed to let people hide money and dodge taxes.

The Green Party has claimed that the foreign trust industry used its influence with the government to stop Inland Revenue from clamping down on the sector.

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