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Little: 'NZ's reputation has been sullied'

by April 11, 2016 General

An independent review into New Zealand’s foreign trust laws is not adequate, and a formal inquiry is needed, the Labour Party says.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the government had been slow off the mark on the controversy.

Andrew Little, John Key and James Shaw

Andrew Little, John Key and James Shaw Photo: RNZ

“It’s taken the government a week to realise what every other New Zealander knows, that harbouring tax dodgers in New Zealand is simply not acceptable.”

Mr Little said the review was not something that should be carried out behind closed doors with a single expert.

“That’s not going to help at all, we now have this massive dump of information that’s gone worldwide, New Zealand’s reputation has been sullied and we need a response that actually is open and transparent.”

When asked if he had ever used offshore tax account for investments, Prime Minister John Key said he had had a superannuation fund in Singapore, the country he lived in at the time. But Mr Key said he had never used tax shelter companies.

Mr Little said it was a legitimate question to ask politicians, particularly in light of the difficulties UK Prime Minister David Cameron was facing.

When asked if he had ever had any connection to a trust registered in a country other than New Zealand, Mr Little said he had not.

The Green Party also wanted a broader public inquiry. Co-leader James Shaw said Prime Minister John Key was now in damage control.

Mr Shaw said appointing a single tax expert was unlikely to lead to the kind of reforms needed to protect New Zealand’s reputation and could result in a “whitewash”.

And he said any inquiry needed expertise and input from the Inland Revenue Department, transparency and anti-corruption experts, international tax law experts, and an opportunity for public input.

“Any inquiry without IRD input will be meaningless,” said Mr Shaw.

“IRD are at the heart of this issue, having direct oversight over foreign trusts and responsible for information sharing with overseas tax authorities. They first warned the government about this issue back in 2013.”