Labour MP Pete Hodgson has complained to Parliament’s powerful privileges committee over Key’s shareholdings in an Otago vineyard. It turns out that Key co-owns the vineyard (in his not-so-blind trust) with some of NZ’s largest supermarket owners. This, while the government has ruled out liquor tax increases.
According to the Herald:
Mr Hodgson said Mr Key misled the House because his Aldgate Trust – set up after his election victory in 2008 to manage some of his estimated $50 million in assets – was not “blind” at all.
Blind trusts are recommended in the Cabinet Manual as a way for ministers to avoid conflicts of interest.
Mr Hodgson said “this blind trust has a parallel company which John Key, so long as he knows the name of the company, can check out”.
The company referred to is Whitechapel Ltd. Simple Companies Office searches reveal it was set up a week after Mr Key became Prime Minister and that he and his wife, Bronagh, sold their shares in Highwater Vineyard Ltd, Earl of Auckland Ltd and Dairy Investment Fund Ltd to the company shortly after. Whitechapel still owns the shares.
But Mr Key continues to deny he knew anything about Whitechapel. That’s very hard to believe when it looks like the whole reason Whitechapel was set up was to peep and see what exactly what Mr Key owned.
It appears very clear that Mr Key’s trust wasn’t blind. Surely if the trust isn’t blind then those shareholdings should have been declared in Mr Key’s pecuniary interests. Since they weren’t, a case for a privileges and conflict of interest complaint is strong indeed.
One wonders in light of the ‘blind’ trust revelations, exactly how many potential conflicts of interests Key has managed to amass with his vast wealth of interests. The wine questions look to be merely the tip of the iceberg.