John Key's lawyer's involvement in lobbying government over tax laws revealed

John Key's personal lawyer lobbied the Government not to change the controversial tax laws.

Documents obtained by the Greens show that IRD interest alarmed the Antipodes Trust Group. Source: 1 NEWS

This is the latest twist in the Panama Papers saga – and it's raising more questions for the Prime Minister and the role of his lawyer Ken Whitney.

Earlier this month Mr Key shrugged off the revelation that he had a cash deposit with Antipodes Trust, a company that specialises in foreign trusts. His office explained this away by saying the deposit was lodged with Mr Whitney, who had recently moved firms to the Antipodes Trust.

However, Companies House documents show that Mr Whitney has been involved with the firm since its inception more than 20 years ago.

John Key Source: 1 NEWS

And Official Information Act document also reveals that Mr Whitney and the Antipodes Trust were heavily involved in lobbying the Government not to change the controversial tax rules.

In 2013, IRD had turned its attention to the foreign trust tax regime, warning of criticism that it was increasingly seen as a tax haven and was out of step with other countries.

This alarmed the Antipodes group who began lobbying the Government. An email from Mr Whitney to the then Revenue Minister Todd McClay arrived on December 2nd 2014.

Mr Whitney claimed he had spoken to Mr Key who told him there were no plans to change the status quo and had suggested a meeting between Mr McClay and the industry.

Just a day after Mr Whitney's email, Mr McClay's staff wrote to IRD to say officials should not recommend a removal of the regime in their upcoming report. A senior IRD official replied saying they will "bear this in mind in how we write the report."

Later that month the IRD's report on foreign trust rules was released and was critical of regulations and compliance.

Source: 1 NEWS

Less than a week later, Mr McClay met industry representatives at the Antipodes Auckland office, with two Antipodes employees present. They told him that moves to tax foreign trusts would "close down" their industry.

The industry went on to form an advocacy group who continue to put pressure on the Government over IRD plans to initiate a full review of the rules.

By May 2015, Mr McClay informed the lobby group there will be no review. IRD staff were told there will be no review because of "wider Government priorities".

Mr McClay passed a request for comment to the current Revenue Minister, Michael Woodhouse, who has not responded.

Source: Breakfast

Mr Whitney has not yet responded to questions.

'Desperate' claims

Mr Key did allude to the matter two weeks ago, just after the emergence of the explosive Panama Papers and the release of the OIA to the Greens Party.

He said "one of the [lobby] groups asked me about it [the IRD report]."

Mr Key didn't mention the Antipodes group or Mr Whitney.

He claims he told the individual that "I haven't got a clue about any changes but go and take it up with the minister".

"Subsequently, there is miles of paperwork [the OIA papers] that shows that he did, I had no other involvement other than that."

However, Greens co-leader James Shaw says : "I think he's got some serious questions about what he did say or didn't say to Antipodes."

A spokesperson for Mr Key said the Greens' claims were "desperate".

"People raise various issues with the Prime Minister all the time – at events such as school and business visits, and informal gatherings all around the country, as well as in written correspondence.

"It is common practice for him to refer them to the appropriate minister, where appropriate, or to answer if he is able to do so."