The Government’s admission it allowed someone linked to the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal to purchase sensitive land, highlights the need to review our overseas investment laws as well as hold a fully independent inquiry into their activities in New Zealand, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says.
“After questioning in Parliament, Ministers have now confirmed that the Overseas Investment Office approved an application in 2014 from a person connected with Mossack Fonseca. They are still refusing to say where that person comes from or release any other details of the transaction.
“This raises questions about whether this is just the tip of the iceberg. Given the vast sums of foreign direct investment coming from tax havens such as the Cayman and British Virgin Islands, government agencies should look wider than Mossack Fonseca and into all activities of tax haven-based firms in New Zealand.
“The Government also needs to show urgency in investigating whether there are other applications linked to Mossack Fonseca. John Key and his Ministers have had to be dragged into facing up to New Zealand’s links with the biggest tax evasion scandal in history. They need to shake off their complacency and restore some confidence to our reputation with a proper independent inquiry.
“This case also highlights severe weaknesses in our overseas investment regime. In the last five years the Government has approved 99 per cent of all the applications it has received. The so-called ‘good character’ test that applicants must pass is in reality a statutory declaration that they provide themselves.
“Labour has for some time called for a tightening of the rules around the purchase of sensitive land and more robust investigations into whether the conditions of purchase are being met. John Key has previously said he does not want New Zealanders becoming tenants in their own land, but his actions have not backed that up.
“We need much tighter controls on the ability to buy land and some re-assurance that we are not allowing our land to be sold off to the global mega-rich who do not pay their fair share of tax,” Grant Robertson says.