Nippert on Citizen Thiel

For your consideration: 6000 words on how Peter Thiel courted, then ghosted, New Zealand. Feat: ex-Minister raising prospect of political pressure, driving convictions, a panic room, and the first (brief) comment from the man himself.

I’m also opening up most of my documentcloud folder on the case, a collection of OIA replies from Internal Affairs, Immigration NZ and the NZVIF.

And, please take time to watch the videos of interview with Dunne and Drury: They’re really good and the pair are key voices in this saga.

Also, if you actually get to the end of the story, please let me know. what you think I spent a year on-and-off reporting it, and it’s the longest thing I’ve ever written. My nervous anxiety is that of an intern awaiting their first byline.

1MDB scandal in court today

An international scandal involving trusts goes to court in New Zealand today. Matt Nippert has been covering this.

NZ Herald: Jet, mansions figure in $232 million foreign trust case to be heard in Auckland court

Auckland court to become scene of battle to prevent US seizure of assets, writes Matt Nippert.

An Auckland courtroom will on Friday become a battleground over Manhattan penthouses and a private jet amid allegations that they are the proceeds of a globe-spanning mega-fraud.

The High Court at Auckland is set down to hear a request from relatives of controversial Malaysian financier Jho Low who oppose the seizure of assets worth $230 million alleged by the United States Department of Justice to be the proceeds of crime.

US court filings said the relatives are beneficiaries of a number of New Zealand trusts that are claimed to directly own a number assets caught up the probe of a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB.



New Zealand trust involvement:

The High Court at Auckland confirmed a defended hearing involving the parties was set down for Friday morning.

The filings claim a number of New Zealand trusts, with names as varied as Elephant Sun and Stars Tower, were the direct owners of assets including a Bombardier private jet, a hotel in Beverly Hills and a $55m Los Angeles mansion formerly owned by Fantasy Island actor Ricardo Montalban.

New York real estate owned by the New Zealand trusts includes two Manhattan apartments, including a $43m penthouse in the Time Warner Centre formerly owned by celebrity couple Beyonce and Jay-Z.

The DoJ have claimed these assets are collectively worth more than $230m.

According to Companies Office filings, the New Zealand trusts in question were established and directed by staff of Auckland law firm Cone Marshall, and also used the local trust specialists’ Stanley Street office as a mailing address.

Cone Marshall principal Geoffrey Cone declined to comment on the case outside of noting his firm acted on behalf of a Swiss-based trust group and that he had no direct contact with beneficiaries.

“This is a matter concerning the Rothschild Group and Rothschild Trust New Zealand for which we provide local director and office services,” he said.

Expect New Zealand politicians to get involved.

The Nippert tax investigations

Media is widely criticised for it’s shallowness, it’s obsession with trivia, and it’s lack of investigative reporting.

Last year Matt Nippert showed that there is still some old school investigation going on. He has detailed his series on articles on tax last year – 19 articles at NZ Herald on the topic were published through the year, in what he calls “a deliberate effort to dig into the opaque world of corporate tax avoidance and the growing Tax Gap.”

Not the most popular of topics, but far more important than much of the news we are now dished up.

The series started with package on the front page of the Herald on March 18. This included:

A pre-planned series of stories followed, including

Nippert then looked at government policy on the issue, including

Some further drilling down:

Nippert: “Throughout all this, the opinions of the public and policy-maker and even the business community appeared to shift.”

And finally “late in the year, the government finally reacted”:

In a year that the Herald was heavily criticised for it’s click-bait headlines and increasing reliance trivia we should acknowledge that they retain a commitment to some in depth investigative reporting, albeit with reducing resources.


NZH bio on Nippert:

A Fulbright scholar with a masters from the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Matt has spent the past decade in newsbreaking roles at the New Zealand Listener, National Business Review, Herald on Sunday and the Sunday Star-Times before joining the Herald in 2014. His work has won numerous awards and he is the reigning Canon reporter of the year.

His stories include horrific abuse at a state-run boys home on Great Barrier Island, malfeasance at South Canterbury Finance, systematic tax avoidance by multinational companies, and the sudden resignation of justice minister Judith Collins.

Nippert has a regular sideline as a broadcast commentator and is one of only a few journalists who honestly enjoys numbers and spreadsheets.

Last year Nippert won Canon media awards for his efforts:

  • Reporter – Business Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald
  • Reporter of the Year Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald

A slanted Panama/trust poll

Activist group Action Station have commissioned and used a poll as a part of their campaign on tax and foreign trust issues – good on them for pushing for better tax and trust laws, but their polling and publicising are slanted.

The Herald reported on a UMR poll conducted for Action Station:

Panama Papers: Majority of Kiwis ‘concerned’ about New Zealand’s new reputation

Pressure over the Panama Papers on the Government is rising after a poll showed a majority of New Zealanders were concerned about the country’s new reputation as a tax haven.

A poll by UMR Research, conducted for activist group ActionStation, showed 57 per cent of respondents were “concerned” about New Zealand being a tax haven and the misuse of our foreign trust regime for tax evasion purposes. Just 23 per cent said they were “not concerned” about the issue.

ActionStation spokeswoman Marianne Elliot said the results of the poll spoke for themselves.

“A majority of New Zealanders are concerned that sloppy trust laws, left open by the current and former governments, have allowed the world’s rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Most New Zealanders are not satisfied with the Government’s current response,” Elliot said.

But the poll didn’t determine that a majority of New Zealanders thought that. Elliot has embellished the poll results with her own phrases.

Has Matt Nippert misquoted Elliot? No, he appears to have cut and pasted her words from an Action Station press release Poll shows Govt seen to be handling tax haven issue “poorly” apart from removing the first part:

ActionStation spokesperson Marianne Elliott says: “The polling shows that like ActionStation members, a majority of New Zealanders are concerned that sloppy trust laws, left open by the current and former governments, have allowed the world’s rich to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Most New Zealanders are not satisfied with the Government’s current response.”

Nippert also reported:

The UMR poll, of 750 people between April 14 and 18 and with a margin of error of 3.6 per cent, also asked respondents how they thought the Government had handled the fallout from the Panama Papers and whether they thought the review of foreign trusts by former PWC chairman John Shewan, was an adequate response.

Again that looks to be picked out of the press release. But there was a PDF attached that shows what was actually asked in the poll.

Using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 means very concerned and 5 means not concerned at all, how concerned are you about New Zealand being a tax haven with foreign trusts being used by people overseas for tax evasion purposes?

  • Concerned (1+2) 57%
  • Neutral (3+ Unsure) 20%
  • Not concerned (4+5) 23%

Elliot portrayed this as 57% versus 23% – excluding 20% stated in the poll as ‘neutral/unsure’. Being neutral could mean unconcerned.

But worse is the loading of the question. It refers to New Zealand ‘being a tax haven with foreign trusts being used by people overseas for tax evasion purposes’ but this is a disputed accusation and unproven.

The second question:

Now, using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 means very well and 5 means very poorly, how do you think the New Zealand government is dealing with the problem of New Zealand being a tax haven with foreign trusts being used by people overseas for tax evasion purposes?

  • Handling well (1+2) 21%
  • Neutral (3+ Unsure) 33%
  • Handling poorly (4+5) 46%

This is an even more loaded question stating that there is a problem of New Zealand  being a tax haven and is used for tax evasion purposes.

The third question:

As you may be aware the government has appointed John Shewan, former chair of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to review New Zealand’s foreign trusts laws. Do you think that this is an adequate response to the foreign trusts issue or do you think a full public independent enquiry is needed?

  • An adequate response 31%
  • A full public independent inquiry is needed 52%
  • Neither/unsure 17%

As well as this question implying that John Shewan’s inquiry may not be be full or independent it (Action Station) chooses to describe Shewan as “former chair of PricewaterhouseCoopers”.

They chose not to describe Shewan as:

  • one of the “leading tax practitioners” at PWC over 28 years,
  • nor that after that he was “an adjunct professor of accountancy at Victoria University” since then,
  • nor that he “has been appointed by Labour and National-led governments to official bodies looking into tax”,
  • nor that he served an appointment to the Tax education Office for 9 years,
  • nor that he was part of the Tax Working Group that advised the Government in 2009,
  • nor that he is “an established commentator on tax and policy matters,
  • nor that he has been involved also in a number of high-profile tax cases”.

Source Radio NZ: Who is John Shewan?

Action Station asked the questions they wanted to, got the results that they wanted,  Elliot embellished the results with her own phrases, and Nippert seems to have simply quoted her press release.

Before having this poll done Action Station had already decided their stance – see New Zealand is a Tax Haven. Prime Minister, this needs to change.

All this media attention has created an opportunity for change by exposing New Zealand’s role in endorsing international tax dodging. We need to move quickly to seize this opportunity and call for real change, making sure the message that our trust laws need to be reformed is at the centre of the debate.

So sign the petition now calling for our government to close the loopholes that allow the world’s rich to escape paying their fair share in tax by using foreign trusts in New Zealand. We do not want New Zealand to be a tax haven for the world’s wealthiest 1%.

This is how Action Station describes themselves:

ActionStation is here to help defend our common goals; a fair society, a healthy environment and accountable politics through effective online issues-based campaigning.

They should be held accountable too, in this case for using questionable poll practices and then misrepresenting the results as a part of their campaign.

I’m all for questioning whether our tax and trust laws and practices are good enough. I look forward to the result of Shewan’s inquiry.

But I think a fair society needs fair campaigning on issues, and fair use of polling in campaigning.

“If the Greens were a Mafia family…”

Chris Trotter has written some odd stuff recently, and his latest post at his Bowalley blog is no exception.

A Green Offer National Couldn’t Refuse

THERE ARE PEOPLE in the Labour Party who take an almost forensic interest in the Greens. They can discourse at length on the “fundi/realo split”; “Deep Green” versus “Red Green”; and whether the electorally perilous potential of “Blue Green” will ever be realised.

Labour’s ongoing surveillance of the Greens should not, however, be compared to the twitcher’s hobby of watching birds. Labour’s interest in the intricacies of green politics is much more akin to the FBI’s interest in the intricacies of the Mafia. Agents may be able to rattle off the names of the heads of the Five Families; which gangsters are on the way up; and where the gangsters who used to be on the way up are buried; but this does not mean that the FBI loves or admires the Mafia. Far from it! The FBI is interested in the Mafia only because it intends to destroy it.

So Labour = FBI, Greens = Mafia.

He goes on.He includes this insight into Labour’s problems.

Labour’s problem may be summed up in two words: proportional representation.

I don’t think so. They would have been likely to have stuff up their rebuild after Clark left and gone through leaders blaming them with or without MMP. Labour’s main problem is that voters have thought they would make a crap government. It’s been a several leaders, three caucuses that have hardly changed and party problem.

Trotter concludes:

The same Mr Shaw’s adroit handling of the Red Peak flag issue in the House last week will not have lessened Labour’s forensic interest in the Greens’ ultimate intentions. His parliamentary “deal” with National, relatively insignificant though it may have been, was seen by Labour as an alarming portent of things to come.

If Labour operated like the Mafia it would know exactly what to do. Without seeking permission, Jimmy “The Business” Shaw, and his Green Gang, made approaches to a rival family.

Huh? Labour = Mafia now?

I guess Labour can be anything they like as long as they can blame someone else.

Trotter promoted his post on Twitter:


If the Greens were a Mafia family, Labour would be “going to the mattresses” over Red Peak.

Matt Nippert Retweeted CHRIS TROTTER and added:

If punditry was a Hollywood comedy road trip, Trotter would be “Lloyd Christmas” to Bomber’s “Harry Dunne”.

I think that’s funny, and I don’t even know who Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne are. I’ll find out and update the post.

Thanks grantaviuskennarius for saving me searching. Here they are:

Dumb & Dumber (1994) Poster

Lauda Finem and conspiracy theories

There is frequent speculation and accusations about who ‘Lauda Finem’ is/are. It’s conspiracy theorist heaven.

Lynn Prentice has often made claims about knowing who runs Lauda Finem, how they run a joint conspiracy with Cameron Slater. On Twitter yesterday:

LF bros lying just as they usually do.

Accuracy isn’t part of the [Precautionary delete] thing.

He continued that line here:

But I have met [Precautionary delete]more often, usually when his mate Cameron Slater as a lawyer is making a complete dork of himself in court using his [Precautionary delete]’s legal ‘expertise’. They like taking sly photos because that is how they are – rather gutless prats.

Coming to think of it. I don’t think I have ever had time to have a coffee with Greg either. Have had a single beer with him twice during the occasional biannual Standard meeting. I see him at the odd demo or public meeting that I have come along to.

I suspect that the [Precautionary delete] brothers or their great friend Cam Slater just have just been inventing material.

Claims linking the [Precautionary delete] with Lauda Finem with Cameron Slater are common from Prentice and from others. For example some recent tweets:

It’s a messy saga strewn with toxic lies, but I reckon has nailed the latest Rachinger-Slater twist.

That link is to a blog specialising in conspiracy theories:

Matthew R. X. Dentith

Conspiracy theories, conspiracy theory theories and theories about conspiracy theorists.

His Twitter descrioption:

Author of the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories & co-host of The Podcaster’s Guide to the Conspiracy.

I heard an interview with Matthew on Radio One next week. Yes, he is very interested in conspiracy theories, although his knowledge of ‘Dirty Politics’ seemed a bit superficial. You might get an idea of his political interests from his blog Links.

Back to Nippert’s tweet, which started an interesting thread.

Lauda Finem top dogs were at WO’s shindig the other night.

Kemara has an interesting past, having been imprisoned with Tama Iti as one of the ‘Urewera Four’.

Talking about conspiracy theories, Cameron Slater asked of Kemara “Is This The Man Behind The Brash Email Thefts?” – like most conspiracy theories that was never proven.

Kemara’s conspiracy claim interested Dentith:

Really? Now that’s interesting…

And others:

So that would be D for dependent [Precautionary delete]? And was [Deleted as per court order]there too?
Oops, I meant D for *defendant* ..

But Cam claimed to be shocked and appalled by what LF had done! Surely, some mistake?

Where was Slater Jnr’s expression of being shock and appalled, Russell?

Embedded image permalink

WO being shocked by *that* alone should be clue enough…

Yes to the first bit, and don’t know about anyone else sorry.

Cheers, pattern recognition leads me to perceive those three as part of Slater’s ugly smear/attack gang.

Certainly appear to be helping him shoot out chaff.

Birds of a feather, etc. They each avoid writing about each other, so I’m sorta surprised they’d share meatspace.

Some interesting associations. Plenty of conspiracy stuff for Dentith to get stuck into.

I would have thought it would be a big story if it could be proven that Lauda Finem had close links with Cameron Slater – it would make a great scoop for Nippert.

Cracking through last big story before a well-deserved break. Main parties not talking, but it’s a cracking tale stretching to 11 figures.

Maybe that’s what his big story is about. It would be good to get some of the current conspiracies hacked open.

Did Rawshark dump and flee New Zealand?

Ben Rawshark has had another wee splurge on Twitter today and in response there’s an interesting claim – that Rawshark dumped and ran.

I’ve lost a lot of support, followers and ‘credibility’ in the last 7 days since the story broke in MSM. Fortunately the cops are digging.

He can smear any truth tellers that pop up using proxy blogs, analysis of the tellers enemies and rarking them up.

Yes, Scientology does exactly the same thing. You might want to study the history of the movement against them.

He is extremely good at what he does. Look at how they hit Catton. She is wholly light side. It’s the state of play now.

Haha Project Chanology? Or something non-hacktivist? I’m not newborn to Scientologies BS.

 This is stuff that both pre-dates and post-dates Chanology. But Chanology was a decisive moment because you can’t smear Anon.

General chitchat with Daphne Lawless who describes themselves:

Daphne Lawless


Musician, indexer, translator, political activist, footballer, sci-fi geek… if you are a renaissance woman, start a renaissance (after Ché Guevara)

Auckland, Aotearoa

She’s of political and media interest, with followers like Sue Bradford, Laila Harre, Duncan Garner, Tova O’Brien, Bryce Edwards.

Rachinger retweeted…

Slater is powerful because he’s useful to those in power. The correct strategy would be to end his usefulness.

So ideally one of Slater’s good buddies could be persuaded to turn against him.

…and then exchange tweets…

But that’s the beginning and the end of it. I was burying my grandmother as I dealt with it all. I apologised to QoT.

 Even if you were a serial arsehole as bad as Slater, I STILL wouldn’t dismiss your revelations about Slater.

I appreciate that. I admire your quest for facts, proof and the truth. Don’t push them too hard though. They don’t like that.

Ever thought of doing a Rawshark? Dox dump to friendly journos then skipping the country?

That was tried and it didn’t work .. Whistleblowing under own name doesn’t work. It’s not the facts… It’s what happens after

How friendly was Rawshark to the journalists? Those who were given access to Rawshark data and reported on it were David Fisher of NZ Herald and Matt Nippert of Sunday Star Times.

Familiar names in the current hacking story.

And did they then leave New Zealand?

And a wee search finds that Cameron Slater had an interest in Daphne Lawless, claiming she had non-public information about the Rawshark hacking.


Meet Daphne Lawless, an aptly named hard left political activist who likes to blog like the big kids

She published an article on the Marxist Fightback blog (Struggle! Socialism! Fightback!), a post titled The Whale Oil leaks: Anti-politics from above.

In it, she writes:  


The 8 and the 2 keys are not next to each other on a keyboard, so I assume that was exactly what she meant to type.

How does Daphne Lawless know the 8GB stick only contained 2GB data?

She seems to know a bit about Rawshark and friends.