(Dotcom and) Ortmann v The United States of America

High Court media release on a judgment on the extradition of Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, Kim Dotcom, Finn Batato to the United States.


Result

In a judgment released today the High Court has confirmed that Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, Kim Dotcom, Finn Batato (the appellants) are eligible for extradition under section 24 of the Extradition Act 1999.

The United States Government has been seeking the appellants’ extradition to face trial on 13 counts including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering; copyright infringement; money laundering and wire fraud since 2012.

The High Court has found that the District Court decision in December 2015 finding that the appellants are eligible for extradition was flawed but that the errors in the judgment were immaterial because there are available pathways for extradition on each count.

The key legal questions

In extradition proceedings the primary role of the Court is to determine whether the requested persons are eligible for surrender in relation to the offences for which surrender is sought. Broadly speaking, this requires the Court to follow a two-step approach.

First, the Court must be satisfied that the alleged conduct constituting the essence of the offence for which surrender is sought correlates to an “extradition offence”. In this case, because there is an extradition treaty, this will depend on whether the conduct correlates to an offence listed in the NZ-US Treaty or deemed to be listed in it by the Extradition Act.

Second, if the Court is satisfied that the offences for which surrender is sought are extradition offences, it must then determine whether the evidence relied on by the requesting State (the US) is sufficient to justify a trial if the offence had been committed in New Zealand. This is what is commonly referred to as a prima facie case – is there sufficient evidence for a properly directed to jury to convict?

Contents of the judgment

The essence of the United States’ case is that the appellants, as officers of Megaupload, were party to a conspiracy to profit from copyright infringement by users of Megaupload’s services.

One of the central issues in the case is whether copyright infringement by digital online communication of copyright protected works to members of the public is a criminal offence in New Zealand under the Copyright Act. The High Court has held that it is not, contrary to the conclusion reached in the District Court. The appellants have therefore succeeded with one of the main planks of their case.

However, the High Court has found that a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement amounts to a conspiracy to defraud and is therefore an extradition offence listed in the USNZ Treaty. Further, other extradition pathways are available for all counts because of their correlation to a number of serious crimes in the Crimes Act. These offences are deemed to be listed in the Treaty by a provision in the Extradition Act, subject to various criteria being met.

The High Court has confirmed the conclusion reached by the District Court that the evidence relied on by the United States for the purposes of extradition does satisfy the prima facie case test against each appellant on each count. The High Court has also confirmed that the District Court was correct to dismiss the appellants’ applications for a permanent stay of the extradition proceedings for alleged abuse of process.

Decision

The District Court judgment finding that the appellants are eligible for surrender to the United States on all counts in the indictment is confirmed.


The full High Court judgment is here: Ortmann v The United States of America

Controversial US ambassador pick for NZ

Some dismay and concern is being expressed about the person put forward as next US ambassador to New Zealand.

Stuff: ‘It’s an insult!’ Backlash against Trump’s pick for diplomatic post to New Zealand

Donald Trump’s pick to be the next United States ambassador to New Zealand has been labelled an “insult”.

Scott Brown, a former US Senator, is being vetted to become Trump’s representative in New Zealand, according to reports in the Boston Globe.

The 57-year-old supports torture, posed nude for a photoshoot, and was named as having groped and made sexually inappropriate comments towards former Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros. Brown denies the allegations.

Former US intelligence advisor Paul Buchanan said Brown’s appointment was an “insult”.

“It just shows you what importance we have to the Trump Administration.”

Buchanan said Brown’s support of waterboarding was “very troubling.”

Buchanan said Brown is “not the brightest bulb”, and while he could grow into the job, he was “pretty much useless as a Senator.”

He said that the Senator’s appointment would come as a reward for supporting Trump, because he knows nothing of New Zealand.

Brown has previously said he wants to come here to cycle, but that’s about it, Buchanan said. “It’d be an extended holiday. New Zealand deserves a little bit better, certainly better than this guy.”

‘A little bit better’ may be in short supply.

Brown lost his Senate position in 2014 and has been a contributor for Fox News.

Details at Wikipedia: Scott Brown (politician)

Many picks for ambassadorial positions in the US seem to be personal, political and paybacks rather than diplomatic.

The continent Zealandia

A scientific study makes a claim that a chunk of continental shelf that is 94% submerged, with only New Zealand and New Caledonia being the only land masses currently above sea level, should be classified as a continent. The area is about two thirds of the size of Australia.

BBC: Zealandia: Is there an eighth continent under New Zealand?

Say hello to Zealandia, a huge landmass almost entirely submerged in the southwest Pacific.

It’s not a complete stranger, you might have heard of its highest mountains, the only bits showing above water: New Zealand.

Scientists say it qualifies as a continent and have now made a renewed push for it to be recognised as such.

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America’s Journal,researchers explain that Zealandia measures five million sq km (1.9m sq miles) which is about two thirds of neighbouring Australia.

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There is no official way of defining what a continent is.

You might think being above water is crucial to making the cut as a continent, but the researchers looked at a different set of criteria, all of which are met by the new kid in town.

  • elevation above the surrounding area
  • distinctive geology
  • a well-defined area
  • a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor

Abstract from Geological Society of America:

A 4.9 Mkm2 region of the southwest Pacific Ocean is made up of continental crust. The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure. Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent—Zealandia.

Zealandia was formerly part of Gondwana. Today it is 94% submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance.

The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth. Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup.

Full report (PDF): Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent

Reactive refugee quota demands

One of the reactions to the US immigration restrictions imposed recently has been to demand an immediate increase in New Zealand’s refugee quota.

Some of those making these demands have previously demanded a decrease in overall immigration.

It has become common for demands based on news events, both national and international. It is not a good idea to rush into implementing knee jerk policies – especially considering the irony of the strong criticism of Donald Trump rushing his new restrictions.

Mr Little has described the US policies as bigotry, and the Greens say New Zealand should speak out when “injustice” occurs overseas.

Both parties have reiterated their pledge to double New Zealand’s refugee quota, currently set at 750.

It was Labour and Green policy to increase the refugee quota anyway. Little and James Shaw – see  Greens would double refugee quota as priority – is using the Trump media attention for opportunistic attention seeking.

It’s not just opposition MPs grandstanding by making refugee demands. Peter Dunne via The Spinoff: NZ’s response should be loud and clear: what is happening in Trump’s America is an outrage

We need not just to boldly condemn the current US approach, but to act, by doubling in our refugee quota, argues Hon Peter Dunne.

And in a Stuff editorial: New Zealand must condemn President Trump’s bigotry

With condemnation of Trump’s action around the world, we would be in good company to oppose his policy in any way we can. Reviewing the quota of refugees accepted into New Zealand would be a good place to start.

While Trump’s immigration restrictions have been rushed (deliberately) and poorly implemented, and are highly questionable,  he made it fairly clear during the presidential campaign and since then that he would do something like this.

And there is quite strong support in the US for Trump’s poll, according to a poll.

Newsweek: POLL, TRUMP BACKERS SHOW SUPPORT FOR IMMIGRATION BAN

While President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations sparked protests and confusion across the U.S., almost half of American voters are in favor of blocking immigration from “terror prone” countries, according to a newly released poll.

“American voters support 48 – 42 percent suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions,” states a press release from Quinnipiac University, which questioned 899 people by calling their landline and cell phones in early January.

The poll reflected the strong anti-immigration and anti-refugee views held by Trump supporters in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a region that was crucial in the president’s surprise victory last year.

While many find the policy repugnant, and there have been some awful examples of ‘collateral damage’, the US can do what it wants to.

Bill English was slow and slack in responding yesterday, and while he said it wasn’t something that would happen in New Zealand, he was more too diplomatic for some critics who don’t have to try to work with Trump and the US.

Immigration can be a tricky thing, and changes to our policies shouldn’t be rushed every time opposition MPs and media demand it.

NZ Herald has a different slant in Time for a kinder immigration debate

Donald Trump built his presidential campaign around the idea that illegal immigrants were the cause of America’s woes.

Now he has acted on that idea, bluntly and with chilling consequences for many innocent people whose only crime seems to be coming from a country he does not favour.

It is vital that New Zealand doesn’t follow this path towards radical policy change based on unfounded fears.

This country has been experiencing record immigration.

The gain of more than 70,000 long-term arrivals in the year to November surpasses the raw numbers arriving at the height of the colonial era in the 19th century.

So there is something to talk about. The face of New Zealand is changing.

But there is an ever-present risk of xenophobia and outright racism in raising this debate.

To point the finger at immigrants themselves for the pressures that population change may bring is either lazy or cynical.

If there was a sudden increase in refugee quota other MPs would be trying to make an issue of it, like Winston Peters. And if refugees happened to have Chinese sounding names and wanted to buy property Labour might make an issue of it.

There seems to be good grounds for more Government research on the issue. Just as there are good grounds to debate current policy in the coming general election.

But we should be wary of politicians who look to make gains by targeting any one segment of our population based primarily on who they are and where they come from.

New Zealand should strive to be better than that. We have a chance to show the world there is another path.

Doing things well usually takes time rather than responding to every knee jerk demand.

 

Reaction to 20% trade tariff suggestion

While White House press secretary Sean Spicer has retreated from his initial suggestions that a 20% trade tariff could be considered on imports from Mexico as a way of paying for a wall between the US and Mexico, the idea has prompted consternation and condemnation in the US and around the world, including in New Zealand.

RNZ: US tariffs on Mexico could hurt Fisher & Paykel

Punitive tariffs by the United States on Mexico could rebound on a major New Zealand company, according to its managers in Auckland.

US President Donald Trump has talked of imposing a 20 percent tariff on Mexican exports to the US as a way of making Mexico pay for a wall being planned for the US-Mexican border.

Since that tariff idea was first unveiled, the White House has back-pedalled slightly, saying it is an option, not a proposal.

But the mere possibility of a tariff has hit the New Zealand firm Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, which manufactures goods for the American market in the Mexican town of Tijuana.

News of a possible tariff caused its shares to fall 3.06 percent yesterday.

Loose talk from White House press secretaries can have quick and widespread effects.

And it has prompted strong criticism in the US. Politico: Major newspaper editorial boards blast Trump’s border ‘war’

The plan amounts to a “tariff tantrum,” The New York Times wrote in its editorial, while The Wall Street Journal labeled the week-old administration’s efforts at international negotiations “amateur hour.” Trump’s rhetoric, wrote The Washington Post, is “a stick of dynamite” inserted into mutually beneficial relationship that politicians from both countries have worked years to build.

Despite Trump claiming in a media conference a short time ago (with Theresa May) that he thinks he has a good relationship with the Mexican president:

Trump’s already strained relationship with Mexico descended to a new low on Thursday, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceling a planned visit to Washington next week (Trump claimed that the decision to cancel the trip was mutual).

The president has promised from the very beginning of his campaign that the border wall would be paid for not by U.S. taxpayers but by the Mexican government. Peña Nieto has been unflinching in his response, insisting at every turn that under no circumstances will Mexico pay for the wall.

As a means of extracting payment, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested Thursday that the U.S. might levy a 20 percent tax on all Mexican imports, though he later pulled back that assertion.

Such a move would require the U.S. to back out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal that Trump railed against on the campaign trail and has pledged either to renegotiate or to leave entirely. Extricating the U.S. from NAFTA could have severe economic consequences, threatening continent-wide supply chains fostered by North American free trade over the past 23 years and with them, the millions of American jobs that depend on exporting goods to Canada and Mexico.

Imposing such an import on Mexican goods, the Times noted, could create a shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables in American grocery stores and drive up the price of many other consumer goods made in Mexico. Ultimately, the Times’ editorial board wrote, “a tax on Mexican imports would be paid by American consumers and businesses that buy those goods. Americans would pay for the wall, not Mexicans.”

The Post agreed, writing that while a tariff could extract some money from Mexico, “it also would likely act as a tax on American consumers of Mexican goods. American consumers, that is, would pay for the wall by paying higher prices for Mexican-grown tomatoes, Mexican-sewn clothing and Mexican-built cars.”

The Wall Street Journal:

“Mr. Trump said as a candidate that he’d treat America’s friends better than Mr. Obama did, but his first move has been to treat Mexico like Mr. Obama treated Israel. On present course he may get comparable results, or worse.”

It looks like Trump and his administration are rushing things far too much, and thinking through the possible ramifications of what they say publicly far too little.

US ‘flawed democracy’

The Economist Intelligence Unit has finally acknowledged that the US has a flawed democracy.

Declining trust in government is denting democracy

AMERICA, which has long defined itself as a standard-bearer of democracy for the world, has become a “flawed democracy” according to the taxonomy used in the annual Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company. Although its score did not fall by much—from 8.05 in 2015 to 7.98 in 2016—it was enough for it to slip just below the 8.00 threshold for a “full democracy”.

The downgrade was not a consequence of Donald Trump, states the report. Rather, it was caused by the same factors that led Mr Trump to the White House: a continued erosion of trust in government and elected officials, which the index measures using data from global surveys.

Trump’s presidency is a consequence of their flawed democracy, not a cause.

It joins France, Greece and Japan in the second-highest tier of the index.

democracyindex

USA was already near the flawed threshold before slipping under it:

  • 2006 – 8.22
  • 2008 – 8.22
  • 2010- 8.18
  • 2011 – 8.11
  • 2012 – 8.11
  • 2013 – 8.11
  • 2014 – 8.11
  • 2015 – 8.05
  • 2016 – 7.98

Top of the ‘full democracy scale’:

  • Norway – 9.93
  • Iceland – 9.50
  • Sweden – 9.39
  • New Zealand – 9.26
  • Canada and Ireland – 9.15
  • Australia has slipped a bit to 9.01

All democracies are flawed, but they are less flawed than the alternatives.

How political is the Thiel attention?

The uber attention over Peter Thiel’s citizenship continued unabated today. How political is it?

Thiel was granted New Zealand residency in 2006 under the Clark government, and was then granted citizenship in 2011 under a National government.

It’s no surprise to me that a rich person willing to invest in New Zealand was granted citizenship, I thought this was one of the aims of our immigration policy.

So what’s the issue? Thiel hasn’t done anything wrong as far as I’m aware.

Except perhaps some see wrong in his support of Donald Trump. Is that why he is getting this much attention?  If Thiel hadn’t had any connections to trump will anyone have cared?

If he had donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign would there be the same level of jumping up and down in angst over…over what exactly?

If New Zealand seeks and encourages rich investors to immigrate and to get citizenship it’s not good at all if some individuals who do get involved here and invest significantly if they are then are given a massive going over by media and by opposition politicians.

Unless there’s actually been something demonstrably wrong about what has happened this all seems quite petty.

We the public should see some transparency over our policy of granting citizenship in general terms.

But getting on a bash wagon over individuals who have been legitimately granted citizenship and have done nothing wrong is very poor form.

Of particular concern is discrimination on political grounds, if that’s what is happening.

Citizen Thiel

Peter Thiel, billionaire and Trump supporter and donater, has been a New Zealand citizen since 2011. This came to light because it was reported yesterday he had bought a property near Wanaka (at Glendhu Bay) and didn’t require approval due to being a citizen. He already owns a property in Queenstown.

NZ Herald: Tech billionaire Peter Thiel a New Zealand citizen since 2011

Controversial tech billionaire Peter Thiel has been a citizen since 2011.

Beyond confirming the date citizenship was approved on March 30, 2011 – dating to a period when Nathan Guy was the Minister responsible – department spokesman Steve Corbett declined to answer any further questions and said they would be treated as Official Information Act requests.

The surprising news of Thiel’s Kiwi citizenship, first broken by the Herald yesterday, drew international attention with the New York Times, Mashable,Gizmodo and the Daily Mail noting the development.

So how did he become a citizen?

According to the Department of Internal Affairs website, citizenship requires people to have lived in New Zealand for most of the past five years, or have been born in New Zealand, or have New Zealand parents.

Filings to the Companies Office, requiring directors to provide their residential address, have Thiel only list United States addresses. Thiel is widely reported to have been born in Frankfurt, Germany, to German parents who emigrated to the United States when he was an infant.

Or:

An alternate path to the above requires the Minister of Immigration to personally sign off and agree that granting the individual citizenship “would be in the public interest because of exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature”.

Thiel’s ties to New Zealand are mainly financial, having invested around $50 million over the last decade in accountancy software company Xero and the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

Not surprisingly this has raised eyebrows and interest.

It also raises questions about who else has and how many others have been granted citizenship on “exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature relating to the applicant”.

Meanwhile in the New Yorker: DOOMSDAY PREP FOR THE SUPER-RICH

How many wealthy Americans are really making preparations for a catastrophe? It’s hard to know exactly; a lot of people don’t like to talk about it. (“Anonymity is priceless,” one hedge-fund manager told me, declining an interview.) Sometimes the topic emerges in unexpected ways.

Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent investor, recalls telling a friend that he was thinking of visiting New Zealand. “Oh, are you going to get apocalypse insurance?” the friend asked. “I’m, like, Huh?” Hoffman told me. New Zealand, he discovered, is a favored refuge in the event of a cataclysm.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Johnson told the audience, “I know hedge-fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway.”

In the first ten months of 2016, foreigners bought nearly fourteen hundred square miles of land in New Zealand, more than quadruple what they bought in the same period the previous year, according to the government. American buyers were second only to Australians.

The U.S. government does not keep a tally of Americans who own second or third homes overseas. Much as Switzerland once drew Americans with the promise of secrecy, and Uruguay tempted them with private banks, New Zealand offers security and distance.

Certainly we are remote from the likelihood of war, and our terrorism risk is relatively low, but there is a bit of a potential issue with earthquakes and volcanoes.

Jack Matthews, an American who is the chairman of MediaWorks, a large New Zealand broadcaster, told me, “I think, in the back of people’s minds, frankly, is that, if the world really goes to shit, New Zealand is a First World country, completely self-sufficient, if necessary—energy, water, food. Life would deteriorate, but it would not collapse.”

As someone who views American politics from a distance, he said, “The difference between New Zealand and the U.S., to a large extent, is that people who disagree with each other can still talk to each other about it here. It’s a tiny little place, and there’s no anonymity. People have to actually have a degree of civility.”

Apart from on a few wee blogs and between the odd visitor to Ratana then civility in politics is probably the norm, if people bother to talk about it at all.

In global rankings, New Zealand is in the top ten for democracy, clean government, and security. (Its last encounter with terrorism was in 1985, when French spies bombed a Greenpeace ship.) In a recent World Bank report, New Zealand had supplanted Singapore as the best country in the world to do business.

There are certainly quite a few positives here.  But do we want to be flooded with doomsday preppers?

New Zealand’s reputation for attracting doomsayers is so well known in the hedge-fund manager’s circle that he prefers to differentiate himself from earlier arrivals. He said, “This is no longer about a handful of freaks worried about the world ending.” He laughed, and added, “Unless I’m one of those freaks.”

Move to the ends of Earth to distance yourself from the world ending.

The Press asks in an editorial: Is New Zealand citizenship for sale?

That would be an outrageous and cynical undercutting of New Zealand’s egalitarian values.

What qualifies as exceptional circumstances and how often is that ministerial right exercised?

Asking such questions is not to say Thiel is undeserving of New Zealand citizenship. He may have qualified under the 1350 day rule or he may well be an exceptional humanitarian.

But we just don’t know. The irony is that New Zealand is attractive to billionaires because it is a safe, stable democracy with an enviable reputation for being corruption-free and transparent.

It is time to apply that same transparency to the ways our Government rolls out the red carpet for those billionaires.

 

Women’s rights marches

Coinciding with the Trump inauguration there have been women’s rights marches around New Zealand yesterday and around the world.  They are happening now in the US.

RNZ: NZ leads marches for women’s rights

At least 2000 people turned out to the march in Auckland this morning – a bigger turnout than organisers had anticipated.

Many were carrying banners and placards as they walked from the US Consulate, near Britomart, up Queen Street to Myers Park.

Some read “Women of the world unite”, “Girl Power” and “My body, My rights”.

Several opposition MPs, including Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, the Green Party’s Catherine Delahunty and NZ First’s Tracey Martin were at the march.

In Wellington about 600 protesters gathered at Parliament grounds with signs declaring solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington movement.

Organisers say a further 300 to 400 people were at rallies in Christchurch and Dunedin.

New Zealand marchers might be a bit miffed at CNN coverage:

Australia was the scene of the first major international march, with thousands joining an anti-Trump protest in downtown Sydney.

Organizers said up to 5,000 people attended the protest at Martin Place; police estimated the number was closer to 3,000.

Around the globe similar rallies were scheduled in London, Berlin, Rome and many other cities in Europe, South America, Africa,  the Middle East and Canada.

CNN reports on marches in Nairobi, Cape Town, Ghana and Malawi.

Marches were also planned in cities up and down the United Kingdom, from London to Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh.In London, large crowds joined a 2-mile march starting outside the US Embassy and ending with a rally in the city’s historic Trafalgar Square.

However most attention is on Washington.

RNZ:  Women’s rights marchers set to visit White House

Hundreds of thousands of people have massed in Washington DC for a march in support of women’s rights, on the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

From a live stream in Washington:

washingtonwomenmarch

The demonstrators, most wearing pink knitted hats known as “pussyhats”, gathered for speeches at the National Mall outside the US Capitol Building. Activist filmmaker Michael Moore addressed the crowd, and urged women to run for public office.

The Washington Post reported organisers had originally sought a permit for 200,000 people but now expected as many as 500,000, possibly dwarfing yesterday’s inauguration crowd.

They intended to march to the new president’s front gate at the White House after the speeches.

The event, the brainchild of Hawaiian grandmother Teresa Shook, was intended as an outlet for women and men who consider themselves feminists to vent their frustration and anxiety over Mr Trump’s victory.

 

 

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.

Also:

And:

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.