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Banned Hong Kong businesswoman operating in NZ

Why should someone banned from working in the finance industry overseas be allowed to operate here? 

Chiu Mui Ng is Hantec Oceanian Limited’s director despite being banned for illegal trading in Hong Kong. Source: 1 NEWS

That's the question being asked after the latest revelations from the Panama Papers uncovered by ONE News, RNZ News and investigative journalist Nicky Hager.

Hong Kong businesswoman Chiu Mui Ng, also known as Connie, is banned from working in Hong Kong's finance industry for 10 years. 

But she is allowed to be the director of New Zealand company Hantec Oceanian Limited. The company operates in Auckland and specialises in foreign investment. 

Ms Ng's name came up in the Panama Papers when Mossack Fonseca raised concerns about her past.  

Our investigations showed that in 2009 she was banned by a high-powered commission in Hong Kong for illegal trading.

Hong Kong-based Ms Ng told us by phone she didn't reveal her past to New Zealand authorities because they never asked. 

Through a translator, she told us there is no actual law saying she can't do the same thing in New Zealand. 

ONE News, RNZ and Nicky Hager have led reporting of the Panama Papers in NZ
ONE News, RNZ and Nicky Hager have led reporting of the Panama Papers in NZ Source: 1 NEWS

The Financial Markets Authority monitors the industry and told us in a statement, "We have had no contact with Ms Chiu Mui Ng or Hantec Oceanian Limited. Hantec Oceanian…is not on the Financial Service Provider Register". That's because they don't offer financial advice to customers.  

Labour Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said, "Well quite clearly if somebody has been banned in Hong Kong and then proceeds to set up a business doing exactly the same thing in New Zealand, we should have serious concerns about that."

Chair of Transparency International New Zealand, Suzanne Snively, says if Ms Ng is not fit for Hong Kong why should she be allowed to operate here? 

"It's a wake-up call because all of these examples are giving us very specific activities that people are undertaking. We mostly go about our lives trusting everybody that we know," Ms Snively said.

New Zealand has a deal with Australia which means that if a person is banned from operating in the financial industry across the Tasman they're banned here too. But there’s no similar arrangement with Hong Kong, where Ms Ng was banned. 

An expert says the only way to clear up the industry once and for all is to require companies and trusts to reveal  beneficial owners. 

Ron Pol is completing a Doctorate on money laundering in New Zealand and said, "The real issue here is who owns these companies and who really owns them and who really controls them. And if we have that information then we're able to do something about it and that's when we actually have the ability to prevent criminal misuse." 

He says that transparency will protect our clean image. 

The investigation into the Panama Papers New Zealand is a journalistic collaboration by reporters from ONE News, RNZ News and investigative journalist Nicky Hager. It has been carried out with the assistance of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the German newspaper Süddeutshe Zeitung.