99.85% of overseas buyers slip through OIO screen

Almost all foreign buyers applying through the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) have slipped through its screen, Labour’s Land Information Spokesperson, David Cunliffe says.

“Of even more concern is the fact that in the last year the value of OIO approved investments from known tax havens has spiked from $78 million to $321 million. This is an industry out of control with New Zealand being seen as an international tax haven ripe for the plucking.

“Given the Government's admission last week that at least one of Mossack Fonseca's dodgy clients was approved two years ago -- and no follow up checking was evident -- New Zealanders can have no comfort that more murky deals have not been done.

“A 99.85% approval rate means the ‘good character test’ is practically redundant as this Government continues to protect the mega rich.

“The OIO is woefully ill-equipped to review investment from tax havens and its own data shows it has increased approvals from them in the past 12 months.

“In the past five years, the OIO has approved 102 applications worth $787 million from well-known tax havens Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Ireland and Luxembourg.

“The Government seems to have doubled down on this policy recently, with the $321 million approved from these tax havens last year being more than the previous three years combined.

“The OIO has itself conceded that it has taken a ‘lighter touch’ in rejecting applications due to being understaffed and under resourced.

“This will worry middle New Zealand in light of one of the biggest tax avoidance scandals in history.

“So asking the OIO to review their own decisions is a nonsense designed to sanitise a gaping wound in New Zealand's international credibility.

“An independent review of the OIO application and vetting process must be included within the full-scale independent review of tax havens Labour has already proposed," David Cunliffe says.