Monday, November 26, 2012

New Zealand: Tax haven

The Guardian this week is taking a look at the money-laundering industry, exposing the shadowy networks used by tax cheats to hide their income and avoid paying their fair share. And their first article, looking at sham "nominee directors" used to hide company ownership from tax authorities, turns up an interesting link: New Zealand:

At the age of 38, Bradford-born Sarah Petre-Mears is running one of the biggest business empires on earth. Or so it would appear.

Official records show her controlling more than 1,200 companies across the Caribbean, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and the UK itself. Her business partner, Edward Petre-Mears, is listed as a director of at least a further 1,000 international firms.

(Emphasis added)

Fairfax's Michael Field ran a quick Companies Office search and found dozens of companies "run by" Petre-Mears registered in New Zealand. Thanks to our lax regulatory environment, we're now on the list of places to register a sham corporate front to launder your cash and hide your dirty deals. And some of those deals are very dirty indeed. For example:
The ICIJ report, which has a front page splash in the Guardian and a documentary on the BBC’s Panorama, has identified and plans to name all 28 nominees they say play a key role in keeping hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions secret.


Those names include Geoffrey Taylor and his son Ian who have acted as directors many companies in New Zealand, the British Virgin Islands, Britain and Vanuatu.

They were behind SP Trading Ltd, a Queen Street based shell company, which was used in 2009 by a Kazakh businessman to fly arms from North Korea to Iran. They were instead seized in Thailand.

Its a nice example of the convergance of the financial practices of the wealthy and of international criminals - and of why we need to regulate to outlaw both. The easiest move would be to require NZ companies to have NZ directors who live here and are accountable under NZ law. But National is dragging their feet on that. Which tells us exactly whose side they're on - and it isn't ours.