Pacific News Minute: New Zealand, Niue and Samoa Caught in Panama Papers Scandal

Apr 5, 2016

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The massive disclosure in the so called Panama Papers continue to reverberate around the globe.  Yesterday, we reported on the implications for China… but the leak of confidential files also put a spotlight on three countries in the Pacific.  More from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

In 1996, Mossack Foneseca, the Panamanian Law Firm at the heart of the scandal wangled an exclusive 20 year contract to administer offshore companies for Niue. Investigative reporter Ken Silverstein wrote for Vice, that the tiny South Pacific island suddenly became the number one destination for South American drug cartels and East European gangsters.  He said, "I believe, at its height, Niue had more shell companies than it did residents."

International Pressure forced Mossack Fonseca to relocate to Samoa and New Zealand in 2004.  Published emails show the company urging the Samoan government to stall Australia's request to sign a Tax Information Exchange agreement.  The chief executive of Samoa's International Finance authority then asked the law firm to write the country's response

Eventually, Samoa did sign the agreement.

Gerald Ryle, the director of the International consortium of investigative journalists which spent a year poring through the document dump, told Radio New Zealand that with more than 12,000 offshore trusts, New Zealand plays a very major role in the offshore world.  In Parliament, Labour Party leader Andrew Little accused Prime Minister John Key of "letting tax dodgers use New Zealand as a tax haven." Key denied it, and pointed out that the country's current trust laws were introduced in 1988, by the Labour Party.