11 May 2016

Panama Papers hotly debated in Parliament

1:01 pm on 11 May 2016

Panama Papers NZ - There were loud and angry exchanges in Parliament today as opposition parties tried to pin down the prime minister over the latest Panama Papers revelations.

The Papers show most of the lawyers who lobbied the revenue minister in 2014 against shutting down the foreign trust industry had extensive links to Mossack Fonseca.

They also show the man who handles the prime minister's personal legal matters - Ken Whitney - had links to two Mossack Fonseca companies.

Mr Key recently said he'd been assured by Mr Whitney he had no links to Mossack Fonseca.

Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key has said New Zealand had barely featured in the international Panama Papers coverage. Photo: RNZ/ Jane Patterson

The papers show Mr Whitney was a director of a trust which was listed as an owner and director of two Mossack Fonseca companies, registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Mr Key said he had "no responsibility for Mr Whitney or any other New Zealander."

"Incrimination by insinuation could be a very dangerous game because I took a moment just to look in the database and guess who's a beneficiary of one of the trusts? Greenpeace International," he said.

Mr Key said the Inland Revenue Department has found fewer than 200 New Zealand trusts in the database, made public today, all of which have been declared.

New Zealand barely featured in the international Panama Papers coverage, Mr Key said.

But that was challenged by the Greens co-leader James Shaw.

"More than 40 different international outlets from around the world, including USA Today, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Washington Times, The Australian, The AFT, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald [and] The Guardian, have reported on New Zealand's role in the Panama Papers," Mr Shaw said.

But Mr Key said he stood by his view.

"If you look at the international reporting of this, New Zealand has but a footnote. A single mention of New Zealand is actually not what's leading the news," Mr Key said.

Mr Key also provoked abuse from around the House when he 'outed' Green MP Mojo Mathers as having a foreign trust - as reported a few weeks ago by RNZ. The trust in the UK gives her wider family access to a holiday home.

The investigation into New Zealand links in the Panama Papers is a journalistic collaboration by reporters from RNZ News, One News and investigative journalist Nicky Hager, and with the assistance of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung.

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