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