Panama papers: more on NZ to come

Peter Bale, head of the Center for Public Integrity involved with the investigation of and release of the Panama papers, says that it will take time to analyse the huge amount of data but is certain there will be New Zealand information revealed.

“You can be absolutely certain, I think, or as near to certain that there will be significant numbers of New Zealanders and of New Zealand entities, certainly New Zealand entities, within this data set.”

Bale was interviewed on The Nation this morning. This will be repeated tomorrow morning, or you can see the interview here.

Interview transcript relevant to New Zealand:

Lisa Owen: And turning to New Zealand, then, when will New Zealand be available? Have you looked at any New Zealand data yet? Will you look at it? What’s happening with the New Zealand side of things?

Peter Bale: I haven’t personally looked at New Zealand data. I haven’t personally been a journalist working on the project. I’m responsible for them, but I’ve left that very much to them. But I discussed it with them today. We have not had a media partner in New Zealand particularly on this project. There’s a number of countries where we just were unable to stretch fully to covering every country.

You can be absolutely certain, I think, or as near to certain that there will be significant numbers of New Zealanders and of New Zealand entities, certainly New Zealand entities, within this data set.

The history of New Zealand’s position on offshore companies, people registering trusts there from offshore and also things like New Zealand’s relationship with Niue and some of the other places that we know Mossack Fonseca has used, means that you should assume that there is a very strong New Zealand connection, and certainly with New Zealand-registered companies there.

Lisa Owen:  Sure. And will there be New Zealand names as well? Will there be New Zealand people as well?

Peter Bale: You can assume that too, I think, based on a discussion I had with my team today about this. And going back to some of the history that there’s been over the last four years and beyond with New Zealand companies and New Zealand individuals who have been active in this area of offshore companies and perhaps working with Mossack Fonseca, we’re pretty certain that there will be New Zealand names in there.

I just can’t go into more detail than that at the moment, purely because I haven’t looked at the data myself and we need to go deeper on it. But it is one of the countries that we… We now have many, many requests from media organisations who were not part of the wider team and from countries where we were unable to get to, or even whole industries that we were unable to analyse.

And so there’s still much more to come, I’m afraid. Actually, I’m not afraid of that; I’m quite excited by that. Still much more to come.

Lisa Owen: Okay. Some people will be afraid and others obviously excited. 12,000 trusts are here in New Zealand all because of this kind of tax avoidance. Does that make New Zealand a tax haven in your view, these 12,000 trusts?

Peter Bale: So, I’ve discussed this with my colleagues. I am not an expert, personally, in this area. Gerard Ryle, the director of the ICIJ, certainly believes that New Zealand is a favourable country for this kind of activity.

And I think New Zealand too knows that it has some issues with the ease of setting up trusts and the way trusts are identified. I think even the prime minister there has talked about this and noted that your trust law was last revised in 1988. So I think New Zealand recognises that there are issues there itself.

And I did note before I came here, New Zealand rates number four on the Transparency International Corruption Index, just under most of the Scandinavian countries, and Australia is number 13, so we all have issues in this area. But I am told that New Zealand does have some issues in this trust area, but I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert.

Report and full transcript at NBR: Kiwi at heart of Panama Papers leak ‘certain’ New Zealanders will be named

 

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28 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  9th April 2016

    As I said on the other thread, what duty do journalists have to respect the privacy of people who haven’t committed any crime and are not public figures? No-one seems to be asking that question.

    Reply
    • That’s a good point. Journalists are analysing the data, and i hope public interest will be served, but I doubt there will be any innocent unless proven guilty basis.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th April 2016

        I’m wondering how they can be held to account and whether the mechanism they are using to analyse and distribute is to deliberately make that very hard.

        Reply
    • Gezza

       /  9th April 2016

      You have asked the question and I think your question is valid. Now that’s it happened it’s just going to roll on until something or nothing comes out of it. If something comes out of it the claim will be made that it was justified. If nothing comes out of it, it’s happened anyway. Is there any legal redress for affected parties Alan?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th April 2016

        Obviously one issue will be jurisdiction since it is being done internationally. But that may not be insurmountable. We will see.

        Reply
    • “What duty do journalists have to respect the privacy of people who haven’t committed any crime and are not public figures?”

      None whatsoever. Privacy is a civil right, i.e.it is completely negotiable. There’s a public interest angle because the Crown is enabling this activity. The reporting is legitimate, although what is probably dodgy is the agenda for reporting, eg targeting Putin when he wasn’t directly involved.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  10th April 2016

        The public interest in public policy doesn’t extend to naming the individuals involved. I think they could probably sue the German newspaper that passed,this information on. That could be the basis for a class action.

        Reply
        • If you’ve got an interest then you should know the extent of the problem. How is a gatekeeper like the Center for Public Integrity going to know what information is relevant to your case? IMO all the data should be made public, since legitimate users should have done their due diligence and looked at Mossack Fonesca’s history.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  10th April 2016

            No, people are responsible for their own actions being within the law, not for other people’s that they have no knowledge of. Public interest can be served without naming names. Those that do gratuitously should be liable for the consequences.

            Reply
  2. Brown

     /  10th April 2016

    I thought Bale was a sanctimonious creep. Journalists acting as judge, jury and executioners? What’s next? Honest politicians?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th April 2016

      Yes, I agree. Too much power over other people’s lives.

      Reply
  3. Joe Bloggs

     /  10th April 2016

    The journos are just doing what they’ve always done – sensationalising other people’s stories for profit.

    What is more interesting to me is the timing of the release of the Panama Papers. The whole deal is a perfect foil for Bernie Sanders. And he knows all about it. His popularity is based upon exposing the tricks of the trade of the plutocrats. Citizens United essentially put a “for sale” sign up in front of the US capitol.

    There is another aspect that interests me in the Panama Papers. Mossack Fonseca & Co is only a bit-player. There are many other law firms like them. Despite the sheer scale of the MF hack, the Panama Papers must surely represent only a very small sliver of the total picture of offshore money hiding/laundering/taxation avoidance. Which begs the question: how much more offshore money hiding/laundering/taxation avoidance is going on?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th April 2016

      We need Kitty to teach how to beg a question properly. I fear it is a lost art.

      I agree the timing has got Hager’s Lefty political fingerprints all over it.

      Of course the offshore industry is huge. Look at the size of the tax industry that creates it.

      Reply
  4. Ray

     /  10th April 2016

    Interestingly when it is a journalist whose privacy is being invaded then everything is different.
    There is a bit of an uproar because someone OIA the Māori TVs papers on a journalist helping herself to clothes, or not
    Now Twitter is alight with accusations of dirty play with a number saying “how dare anyone question her integrity etc”

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  10th April 2016

      It’s the same issue to me, yes. It does raise questions of double standards.

      Reply
      • There are huge double standards and terrible ethics in our MSM. Nan said to always fight one battle at a time though so I’ll fight that one after the current one finishes 🙂

        Everyone should be open to scrutiny and those with power quadruply so. If not, why not?

        Reply
  5. Zedd

     /  10th April 2016

    just watched Q+A this a.m.
    its sounds like the evidence is mounting against; Key’s ‘nothing to see here !’ :/

    maybe more ‘tall poppies’ are about to fall ?

    Reply
  6. Nelly Smickers

     /  10th April 2016

    MY hubby had the tranny in his ear this morning, and said he thort he heard someone say that Nicky Hagar was part of the ‘Global Investigative Journalism Network’, and may have turned down the opportunity to be part of the PP investigation, or maybe wasn’t asked.

    Reply
    • A journalist under State, Police and National Party surveillance would never endanger the work of other journalists by being close to such a huge dump. Hager only just got his computers back from the illegal police raid – he had personal battles to fight that make PP look like a kindergarten.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  10th April 2016

      Hager and another NZer were reported to have been at the heart of this project. From the way it was reported I gathered they worked in the US on this.

      Reply
      • Nelly Smickers

         /  10th April 2016

        @ Ben

        It’s exactly the same with Wayne.. Me and the kids never like to be too close when he takes a huge dump either 😦

        Reply
      • Alan, this time I think that while Hager is named as a source of information as a backgrounder, he has not got the academic skills needed for objective reporting on the meaning of the transactions which is a fundamental part of the ICIJ ethic. They are very jealous of their reputation, and have been quite dismissive of Hager’s contribution in this case.

        Reply
  7. I have had a preliminary look at the database of the ICIJ which is the repository of the Panama Papers in a searchable database. Google it, if you are interested. At this stage there is not much New Zealand related material, but what is there revisits the Wine Box saga of Winston Peters fame. Some of the names of people that show up now are interesting as well as some well known NZ legal firms. I have not had enough time to be able to name persons or institutions, but I was a bit suprised at how few related to NZ showed up on my intitial search. You end up with principals’ names and associaated companies shown as a diagram with links between the companies involved. To really get into it you will need to search the principals on Linked In, and the companies on Google or other search engines. I was impressed by the information about how Portcullis Trust fitted into so may of the principals.

    Reply
  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th April 2016

    Here is a detailed description: http://mg.co.za/article/2013-04-05-00-detective-story-how-icijs-project-team-analysed-the-offshore-files

    It shows I was right in saying this data was put together from multiple sources presumably captured from the companies server. And Hager’s involvement:

    “Duncan Campbell (U.K.), a founding member of ICIJ, is the ICIJ Data Journalism Manager for the Offshore Project and a contributing journalist. Programmers Sebastian Mondial (Germany), Matthew Fowler (UK), Rigoberto Carvajal and Matthew Caruana (Costa Rica) provided custom software design, programming and data support. The initial manual analysis of the client names was done by ICIJ member Nicky Hager and Barbara Mare (New Zealand). ICIJ member Giannina Segnini oversaw the work in Costa Rica.”

    Reply

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