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Panama papers reveal NZ link

Law firm Mossack Fonseca’s office building in Panama. Photo from thewhistleblowers.info

Law firm Mossack Fonseca’s office building in Panama. Photo from thewhistleblowers.info

Wellington [AAP]

A huge leak of documents from a secretive Panama law firm has revealed New Zealand is being used as a tax haven by foreign politicians.

The leak of 11.5 million documents – amounting to 2.6 terabytes of data – to journalists from Panama-based Mossack Fonseca is considered to be the largest in history.

Malta energy minister Konrad Mizzi and the prime minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri set up two offshore trusts in New Zealand in 2015 through the firm.

The two trusts are linked to Panama-based companies.

The revelations triggered wide-scale protests in Malta last month, with thousands taking part in a rally demanding the resignations of the two political figures.

Mizzi admitted in February that he and his wife had set up a trust in New Zealand to manage their assets.

He said he would close down his company in Panama but retain his trust in New Zealand.

There are reportedly thousands of foreign trusts registered in New Zealand – which do not pay local tax on offshore earnings – with their beneficiaries not registered with any public body.

The New Zealand link forms part of a larger investigation into the document dump, dubbed the Panama Papers, which were obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Sueddeutsche said an employee at the law firm had leaked the data, telling the newspaper he risked his life in doing so. The employee was not identified in the report.

The newspaper shared the Panama Papers with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other news outlets, including the BBC and The Guardian.

Some 370 journalists in 78 countries were involved in evaluating the data dump.

The documents link at least 12 current and former heads of state and 128 other politicians to illicit financial transactions.

Those implicated include Russian President Vladimir Putin, long-time Egyptian autocrat Hosny Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Mossack Fonseca says it had never been charged for criminal wrongdoing in its efforts to help clients launder money, dodge tax and circumvent financial sanctions.


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