The only question that matters in Highwater-gate is this: “is John Key’s trust really blind”? The answer seems to be “no”. I’m sorry, but the lawyer’s letter that Key released yesterday just raises more questions about his not so blind trust.
The letter explains the relationship between Whitechapel and Aldgate, the trust. Whitechapel is the trustee. Whitechapel has legal ownership of the shares for Aldgate’s benefit. In turn, Key’s lawyers, TGT, own Whitechapel and run it, directing its actions in respect to Key’s shares (which appear to have been none).
But why doesn’t the lawyers’ trust company just run Key’s blind trust directly? The lawyers’ letter misdirects by saying Whitechapel “may or may not” act as trustee for other trusts but the companies register proves it only owns the three companies that Key used to own – Highwater, Dairy Investments, and Earl of Auckland. Whitechapel exists solely as a legal fiction between the ‘blind’ trust and the lawyers who actually direct it.
Why does Whitechapel need to exist?
The lawyer’s letter says that Key is not a beneficiary or trustee of Aldgate, which means he legally has no control. But in this year’s Register of Pecuniary Interests, Key declares a beneficial interest in Aldgate. Why the discrepancy? And how does Key get assets back from a trust he has no interest in?
But that’s a side issue. The real question is whether or not the trust is blind. As it stands, it is demonstrably not blind. You and I and Key can see what is in Aldgate it at any time by seeing what Whitechapel owns.
We’re still waiting to hear an explanation for the legitimate existence of Whitechapel other than as the way to see Aldgate’s assets.
We’re still waiting for an explanation of how the trust is blind given that everyone can see into it.
We’re still waiting for an innocent explanation for Key saying he was having “a lot of fun” owning a vineyard after he had signed the shares over to the blind trust.
We’re still waiting for the innocent explanation as to why the wine he gave away to “people who have helped me” (Tracy Watkins enjoyed hers) was labeled with the name of the vineyard he had supposedly cut his links with and why another owner of Highwater trademarked the label.
With no satisfactory answers forthcoming and National’s telling response being to attack people for asking questions, rather than answering the. Attention must begin to turn to conflicts of interest that arise from the shares held for Key in the not so blind trust.
Kiwis have the right to trust that politicians will do what they say and to be confident that their decisions are not influenced by their personal interests. To protect his own reputation, Key needs to open up.