- Date published:
10:36 am, May 5th, 2016 - 17 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, grant robertson, john key, national, spin, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: louise upston, Mossack Fonseca, panama papers
They say a week is a long time in politics. Events surrounding the Overseas Investment Office and the Taranaki Farm purchased by South American businessmen with convictions for dumping toxic waste in a river Show how true this can be. A collection of Radio New Zealand articles provides evidence of a stunning backdown.
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) says it is satisfied due process was followed when it allowed two Argentinian brothers to buy a large north Taranaki farm.
Then later that day:
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is investigating after revelations two Argentine brothers it allowed to buy a large Taranaki farm have criminal convictions for environmental pollution.
Documents obtained by the Labour Party show Rafael and Federico Grozovsky – who bought Onetai Station in 2014 – were found criminally responsible for chemical dumping from their Buenos Aires tannery.
The brothers are linked with Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which is at the centre of the Panama Papers revelations about how the rich hide their wealth in overseas trusts.
The OIO had said it was satisfied due process was followed when it granted consent for the pair to buy the 1300 hectare farm near Awakino.
But, in a statement issued this afternoon, it said it was now investigating the serious issues raised in media reports.
Then on Tuesday:
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has apologised to the government for failing to conduct a robust inquiry when it approved the sale of Onetai Station in Taranaki to a foreign company.
The OIO last week said it was satisfied due process was followed when it granted consent for the pair to buy the 1300ha farm near Awakino, but shortly after said it was investigating issues raised in media reports.
The office knew that company had a previous conviction but failed to alert the government.
Also on Tuesday:
An independent investigation is being launched into the way Overseas Investment Office (OIO) carried out its good character test over the sale of a Taranaki farm to two Argentine brothers.
Land Information Minister Louise Upston said this morning she had “some concerns” over how the OIO carried out the good test, which it uses as it considers whether to give consent for a land purchase by overseas buyers.
Ms Upston said an investigation was triggered on Friday when the serious allegations about the brothers’ pollution convictions were made public.
“I do have some concerns about the process that the office have used around the good character test so I have asked that a review be undertaken about that.”
Then on Wednesday:
More pressure is being put on the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) with the Labour Party saying it has evidence other foreign companies should have failed the good character test.
Also on Wednesday:
This afternoon Prime Minister John Key announced the OIO would be getting a staffing boost so it can follow up on commitments made by investors buying property in New Zealand.
“That’ll allow us to do two things, for the Overseas Investment Office to process applications more quickly, secondly for the Overseas Investment Office actually to be able follow up on commitments and undertakings that are made by investors when they purchase property, for instance in New Zealand.”
The OIO is already under the spotlight for a botch-up over two Argentine brothers who were cleared to buy the Onetai Station in Taranaki, despite having a criminal conviction for a toxic chemical leak.
Mr Key said the government was now also allowing the office to substantially increase its fees, which would mean the office could beef up its staff by 25 percent.
Mr Key said the move was not an admission that the OIO had not been doing its job properly.
But Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said the timing was questionable.
“I just find it remarkable that the government’s only done this essentially because the Panama Papers have emerged and then the Labour Party has followed it up.
“It’s a ridiculous situation for New Zealanders, who believe that our sensitive land should only be sold in the most extreme of circumstances, to discover that the OIO has barely even been investigating some of these applications.”
The whole incident makes you question the veracity of what we are being told. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?