Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An implausible explanation

So far the tally of New Zealanders caught up in the Panama Papers is thin - as you'd expect. Culturally, ultra-rich kiwis are hardly likely to go to Panama for their tax-dodging needs. Instead, they'd go to London, Sydney, or just Auckland. But there has been one interesting catch:

Deborah Pead is well known in the Auckland PR scene and became the benefactor of a trust for a sick friend, which unwittingly landed her in the files of Mossack Fonseca.

In 2014 she enlisted the help of Chesterfield, a financial management company, to help take care of her friend's money.

Chesterfield in turn asked Mossack Fonseca to set up three trusts in the blacklisted British Virgin Islands.

Documents show when the companies were established using "business profits" they had a total value of $220,000.

Ms Pead told ONE News she had no idea Mossack Fonseca was involved or how the law firm structured finances.

Riiigghhhtt. This sounds... implausible. In fact, about as credible as "the dog ate my homework" or "the money was just resting in my account".

But stranger things have happened. Maybe Pead really does have a wealthy sick friend, who magically entrusted her with hundreds of thousands of dollars of (perfectly legitimately obtained and surely properly taxed) "business profits". And maybe the financial management company went to a lot of expensive effort setting up multiple trusts in the Bahamas for that money because that's what they always do for their clients, even for those with relatively small (in a financial management sense) amounts of money who have expressed no desire for such structures (such diligence!). Maybe it is all just a terrible, suspicious and implausible-looking series of events with a perfectly reasonable, legitimate explanation. Surely the word of a PR consultant - a polite euphemism for "paid liar" - is enough for us to believe that.

The real question, I guess, is whether its enough for the IRD.