Friday, April 29, 2016

A problem of trusts

Two weeks ago, when John Key was forced to reveal that he had at least $50,000 stashed with Antipodes Trust, a legal firm that specialises in money laundering via foreign trusts, he (though his office) assured us that it was all an accident. Key's lawyer had "moved firms", and Key's money had followed him. Of course, he lied:

Companies House documents show that Mr Whitney has been involved with the firm since its inception more than 20 years ago.

So if Key's money is with this dodgy firm of money launderers, it is because he has chosen to become involved in it. And remember, this isn't the first time Key has lied over his financial dealings - it seems to be a habit of his.

But it gets better - because Key's lawyer has also been lobbying to preserve his ability to launder foreign money, and using the Prime Minister's name to do it:
Ken Whitney, the executive director of boutique trust specialist Antipodes, wrote to then-Minister for Revenue Todd McClay on December 3, 2014, over concerns Inland Revenue were sizing up the sector.

"We are concerned that there appears to be a sudden change of view by the IRD in respect of their previous support for the industry. I have spoken to the Prime Minister about this and he advised that the Government has no plans to change the status of the foreign trust regime," Mr Whitney wrote in an email.

"The PM asked me to contact you to arrange a meeting at your convenience with a small group of industry leaders who are keen to engage to explain how the regime works and the benefits to NZ of an industry which has been painstakingly built up over the last 25 years or so."

[Emphasis added]

McClay followed the implied order, and told IRD to stop working on foreign trusts. Its unclear whether he confirmed that Whitney was speaking for the Prime Minister, or merely took it on trust, but either way, the PM's friend got his policy change. And as a result, New Zealand is still "open for business" for rich, tax-dodging sociopaths - and Russian gangsters, corrupt Chinese officials, international arms dealers, and terrorists.

Its an unpleasant insight into how policy is really made in New Zealand - the PM's rich mates having a word in his ear, and Ministers doing what they want because they are reminded of the relationship. And all the worse because Key's "defence" is that this "happens all the time". So, basicly, our policy is being made by and for his rich mates. And if their preferred policies also make us a bad international citizen and contribute to the global problems of tax evasion and money laundering, well, that's just the cost of doing business.