Foreign trust industry was in Govt’s ear the day after Shewan Report

The Green Party is calling on the Government to hold the line in the face of foreign trust lobbying to water down new foreign trust disclosure reforms, the Green Party said today.

“Less than a day after the Government was forced to accept most of the Shewan Inquiry recommendations, the foreign trust industry began a concerted campaign to weaken its response,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

Information released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that a foreign trust

lobby group, led by Robin Oliver and Mike Shaw, wrote to the Minister of Revenue the day after the Government adopted the Shewan Inquiry’s recommendations, seeking to weaken new disclosure requirements and penalties for foreign trusts.

“The National Government must hold the line against New Zealand’s secretive foreign trust industry despite its close personal relationship to them,” said Mr Shaw.

“Foreign trust lobbyists sought changes to new disclosure requirements within 24 hours of the Government announcing its intention to adopt a majority of the Shewan Inquiry’s recommendations.

“Robin Oliver and Mike Shaw wrote to the Minister of Revenue seeking changes limiting disclosure and weakening penalties for non-disclosure.

“Subsequent Select Committee submissions from foreign trust providers Cone Marshall, Robin Oliver, and TGT Legal are all pushing in a co-ordinated way for draft foreign trust law to be watered down.

“Foreign trust reporting requirements must stay robust given the ease with which New Zealand foreign trusts can be used to avoid paying tax and launder money.

“If we lose the automatic sharing of foreign trust information between IRD and foreign tax administrations, we’ll effectively be no better off. It will be business-as-usual for our foreign trust industry. New Zealand's international reputation will continue to be at risk of being seen as a haven for shady operators.

“National has been highly compromised in the past through its close connection with the foreign trust industry.

“John Key’s personal lawyer, Ken Whitney, was found to have used his position of privilege to stop IRD’s earlier plans for reform of an industry they described as unsustainable.

“Key himself had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a review that, in hindsight, was needed all along.

“John Shewan’s findings are a win for greater transparency around tax matters and for honest politics internationally. We cannot let his reforms be watered down by vested interests with close ties to the Government,” said Mr Shaw.

 

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