Monday, May 02, 2016

"Good character"

So it turns out the people the Overseas Investment Office approved to buy Onetai station (you know, the ones with the lovely Panamanian money-laundering lawyers) weren't just convicted polluters, but also money launderers:

Ministers approved the sale of Taranaki's Onetai station to a Panamanian firm whose treasurer was also a director of a company that Portugal believed laundered money for former Brazilian and Portuguese national soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.


Gustavo Daniel Chaves Mantaras was one of three Uruguayan directors and the treasurer of Ceol & Muir, a Panamanian company set up with the help of law firm Mossack Fonseca to purchase Onetai station in 2013.

British company office records show Mantaras was also a director of Chaterella Investment Limited, now renamed Inmax International.

Portuguese prosecutors believed Chaterella was used by Scolari – who managed Brazil's football team during its humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup – to hide millions of dollars from Portugal's tax authority.

Do we need any more evidence? These "investors" simply aren't of "good character", as required by the Overseas Investment Act. The OIO should revoke consent and force a sale.

But its clear also that we have a wider problem with foreign companies being able to be used to mask the identity of investors and effectively circumvent the good character test. This could be easily solved if we followed the UK and Australia in requiring companies to publicly disclose their beneficial owners - that is, who really owns and profits from them, rather than just which stooge is on the papers - in order to invest or operate in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it seems that despite a growing trend overseas, the government has not even considered this.