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.

'It's your money' - advice for car sellers as dodgy dealer up to old tricks

Car dealers in financial strife can't legally use money from car sales to pay off debts, says Fair Go presenter Gordon Harcourt, following the case of a convicted fraudster who's been selling cars on behalf of people but not handing over the proceeds.

Seven Sharp has caught up with car dealer John Elphick of Total Financial Services who Far Go found "selling on behalf" but failing to pay vendors back in 2006.

He's a convicted fraudster and now John Elphick is up to his old tricks, trading in cars and not delivering the money. Source: Seven Sharp

This time, four car vendors are owed more than $70,000 by Mr Elphick. 

Gordon Harcourt told Seven Sharp the thing to remember if you're selling your car through a dealer is that there's a specific legal protection, called on consignment. 

"The money is not the dealer's. It's your money. And if they're selling your car on behalf, on consignment, you can demand the money and they must give it to you," he said. 

"And if they go down the toilet an hour after your car is sold, the money is still yours. It cannot be used to cover debts."

One of the latest complainants, Cheryl Waite of Putaruru, tried to get Elphick to sell a 2002 BMW on her behalf in November.

The South Auckland licensed motor vehicle dealer sold the car within weeks, but nearly six months on Ms Waite hasn't seen a cent of the $15,000 she was promised.

"He keeps saying 'it will be there next week'," she told Seven Sharp.

Elphick told Seven Sharp clients' money has "all gone into the company and it's paid other bills". 

"I was hoping everyday to sell cars to make money to pay these people."

Having been in this position before, he said he made promises to his family that it would never happen again, and that makes him "just want to die".

"It's that bad. The only thing I'm trying to do is get these people paid. That's what I want to do ok."

Elphick knows some of his victims want to see him behind bars and says, "I don't blame them to be honest."



Ruapehu crater still open to tourists despite hot and bubbling lake

Tourists are still ascending to Mount Ruapehu's crater lake, despite it reaching the hottest temperature since it was reformed in 2000.

The temperature of the lake is 46 degrees Celsius, the hottest on record since the start of the century.

However, the bubbling and steamy lake does not foreshadow an imminent eruption, experts said.

GNS Science said people do not need to be anxious but should be aware of what may happen.

Authorities have a detailed plan in place in case of an eruption, which includes several testing stations and sirens which are set to sound in the event of an eruption.

Yesterday tourists were seen scaling the North Island's highest mountain to the still open crater lake after experts said it was safe.

Mount Ruapehu last erupted in 1995 and 1996 before a seven minute eruption in 2007 sparked two lahars.

Experts say an eruption doesn’t seem imminent but it’s a timely reminder to check warning plans are in place. Source: 1 NEWS