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Questions remain over Key’s involvement in inquiry halt

The Green Party is asking the Prime Minister to tell New Zealanders why he failed to mention that his own lawyer was the person in the foreign trust industry he’d discussed foreign trusts with and referred on to the Revenue Minister.

The Green Party revealed yesterday that the Prime Minister’s lawyer, Ken Whitney, wrote to the Revenue Minister in late 2014 with his concerns about an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) review of foreign trusts, claiming the Prime Minister had told him there was no plans to change the regime. Eventually the IRD was told to stop its work on foreign trusts as it was not a Government priority.

A few weeks ago the Prime Minister casually mentioned that he’d been approached by someone in the foreign trusts industry who he’d suggested should contact then Revenue Minister, Todd McClay.

“The Prime Minister did not tell the whole story when he said ‘someone’ had approached him about the foreign trusts regime,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“The Prime Minister withheld a very significant piece of information: The person who spoke to him and went on to lobby the Revenue Minister to save the foreign trusts industry was his own personal lawyer, a man that he has worked with for 20 years and continues to work with.

“We’re asking the Prime Minister to explain to New Zealanders why he didn’t tell the full truth about the conversation with Mr Whitney, and to be clear about what assurances he did or didn’t give him.

“The fact is, the IRD had serious concerns about foreign trusts adding to a perception of New Zealand as a tax haven, but the IRD’s work on these concerns was shut down weeks after the industry started lobbying.

“Ordinary Kiwis need to be able to trust that powerful vested interests don’t get special treatment by the Government just because they are politically connected.

“This whole affair shows why the new Shewan inquiry needs to be broadened to include a panel of experts, and the public should be allowed to have their say,” said Mr Shaw.