Panama Papers: NZ law firms doing business with Mossack Fonseca while lobbying Govt not to change foreign trust laws

John Key's legal adviser didn't want to face questions about his links to Mossack Fonseca when we approached him, but remember when it hit the news that Ken Whitney worked at a firm specialising in foreign trusts?

A special investigation has found new links between the PM's legal adviser and the Panama law firm. Source: 1 NEWS

Despite telling the Prime Minister he'd never done business with Mossack Fonseca, Mr Whitney does have links to the controversial Panamanian law firm through two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Between 2012 and 2014 he was a director of the New Zealand office of the Swiss-based Rothschild Trust.

That company owned Capewood Investments and Exchange Securities Ltd via its subsidiary Arrow Master-Holdings.

Mossack Fonseca's branch in the British Virgin Islands was the agent for both companies.

"I know that he is of the highest ethical level and he is of the highest oversight, he happens to be brilliant," Mr Key said on April 3rd.

Today, he defended Mr Whitney when questioned by reporters.

The PM says he has no need to contact his lawyer over the latest story on the Panama Papers. Source: 1 NEWS

The Panama Papers also reveal New Zealand law firms were doing significant business with Mossack Fonseca, all while lobbying the Government not to change foreign trust laws.

Mossack Fonseca is playing up New Zealand's good reputation particularly to rich clients in Central and South America. Source: 1 NEWS

Lawyers from Cone Marshall, Asiaciti, John W. Hart and Anchor Trustees International acted as directors and liquidators for dozens of trusts and companies.

Labour leader Andrew Little says New Zealand has "become a target".

"We are seen in other parts of the world as a place you can plant your wealth and not have to pay tax on any income you earn of it," he said.

The Labour leader fires up as more revelations emerge from our Panama Papers investigation. Source: Breakfast

Mossack Fonseca maintains that these companies and trusts are routinely used for legal purposes.

Cone Marshall became an intermediary, known as an 'eligible introducer', for Mossack Fonesca in 2014 just months before the lawyers met with Revenue Minister Todd McClay.

They were concerned Inland Revenue were moving to shut down the foreign trust industry - said to be worth as much as $50 million a year.

"They had special access in the sense of that they both were able to have a detailed conversation with officials and they seem to have also changed the pattern of history on the basis of that discussion," Suzanne Snively, from Transparency International says.

But the Government says reviewing foreign trust laws was not a priority at the time, and the group have special influence.

None of those four firms responded to our questions, but Robin Oliver was another of the lobbyists - who has no links to the Panama company.

"What was proposed, and what the industry still supports, is a register of the trustees and a licensing of trustees," Mr Oliver said.

Recommendations from a foreign trust review are due in June.

Reporting team: Andrea Vance, Gyles Beckford, Jane Patterson, Jessica Mutch, Lee Taylor, Nicky Hager and Patrick O’Meara

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.




Clarke Gayford reveals Melania Trump invited him to New York get together, speaks about Obama's 'lovely, soft nose'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner has told an audience about former US President Barack Obama's "lovely, soft nose" and an invitation he's received from Melania Trump.

Ms Ardern is this week leaving for New York to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, with her schedule including high-profile appearances on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the Today Show and a lengthy interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

The trip will also be the first overseas outing for daughter Neve, who was born in June.

Partner Clarke Gayford - who has taken on a full-time fathering role - will also attend.

Speaking at an event on Thursday night, Mr Gayford, a television and radio presenter, reportedly told an Auckland audience he had received an invite to a reception for leaders' partners from President Donald Trump's wife, describing it as "tea and scones with Melania".

"It's pretty funny. I sent it to a few friends and said, 'You will not believe this invite I just got'," the 40-year-old said, pulling out his phone to read the message, according to Stuff.co.nz.

During a question-and-answer session, Mr Gayford also recounted meeting Mr Obama, including a hongi - a traditional Maori greeting which involves the touching of noses.

"I was one of the first ones up and I was pretty nervous - and he'd only done one before either. Lovely, soft nose," Mr Gayford said.

He was also reported to have described as former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull as "actually, really quite personable".

While Ms Ardern is expected to receive an enthusiastic welcome in the US, her trip ends a rough month in domestic politics for her Labour Party, following the firing of one government minister this week and the resignation of another just weeks ago, both amid scandals.

Jacinda Ardern, Clarke Gayford and baby Neve. Source: 1 NEWS

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Police chastise Canterbury students who didn't intervene in bullying incident

Police today chastised students who opted not to intervene or call for help this week as a bullying incident was filmed at a Canterbury school.

Two students at Darfield High School are expected to appear before the school board today after school officials reviewed the video, which emerged yesterday on social media. In it, a boy lay on the ground as two others kicked and pummelled him.

"Police are particularly concerned that other students who saw what was happening, didn't intervene or get help from a teacher," Senior Sergeant Kelly Larsen said in a statement released to 1 NEWS. "Instead, they watched and took videos."

Darfield principal James Morris has described the incident as assault.

Police said they were alerted about the incident Tuesday afternoon, shortly after it happened.

"Bullying behaviour is not OK and has serious consequences," police said. "Rather than being a bystander, Police encourage anyone who witnesses an assault, or knows about other bullying behaviour to become someone who stands up against bullying, and does something about it.

"Bullying is wrong. We all have a responsibility to do something to stop it."

An outcome of the school board hearing is expected on Monday.

Darfield High School’s principal says police were notified shortly after the incident happened. Source: Supplied


Police commend Good Samaritan as two kidnap attempts thwarted in Christchurch this morning

A man tried to abduct two women in back-to-back incidents in Christchurch this morning but failed after they fought back, with help from at least one bystander, according to police.

Authorities said they are speaking to a man over the incidents but are appealing to the public for more witnesses to come forward.

According to police, the first botched kidnapping occurred at 5.30am when he approached a woman at her car in the Jellie Park Recreation and Sports Centre on Ilam Road.

He then fled on a bicycle, pedalling through Jellie Park before approaching a jogger at the entrance of Ray Blank Park on Maidstone Road, police said.

The attacker fled again on bicycle after the woman fought him off, aided by a motorist who stopped to help her, according to police.

But this time he was followed by a motorist, who alerted police to a home on a nearby cul-de-sac that he was seen entering.

"We would really like to thank the member of the public who stopped to help the second victim," Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Worner said in a statement. "As the alleged offender is talking to Police we are confident the public has no reason to be concerned."

Anyone who saw either incident this morning and hasn't yet talked to police is asked to call 03 363 7400 to make a statement.

Police emergency scene
Police emergency scene Source: 1 NEWS