- Date published:
8:03 am, April 7th, 2013 - 107 comments
Categories: act, capitalism, overseas investment, tax, winston peters - Tags: cactus kate, global money maze, icij, nicky hager, tax havens, wine box
Yesterday I posted on how the international consortium of investigative journalists have exposed the global money maze that enable the wealthy to hide their wealth in trusts and tax havens. Today Nicky Hager’s article explains how Kiwis are at the centre. Lawyers, helped by accountants, lobbied each tax haven to write laws enabling their clients to use the tax havens. Some staff at the BNZ and ANZ helped clients move money in and out of such offshore accounts.
Hager outlines a complicated maze, involving the TrustNet, whose majority shareholder is Kiwi rich-lister, John Spencer. It winds through South East Asia, and Hong Kong. People now based in Auckland are associated with a Hong Kong arrest warrant against one TrustNet client – and Kathy Odgers (AKA Cactus Kate) is one of the people named as being involved (though not necessarily illegally) in that network.
Leaked documents reveal one of New Zealand’s richest families was for a time at the heart of a major international tax haven company that hit the news in the United States last week. John Spencer, New Zealand’s richest man in the 1980s and still incredibly wealthy, was – with his family – majority owners of the company called TrustNet, whose extremely secret client records have been leaked en masse to a Washington DC-based journalism organisation. …
Surprisingly, the leaks show New Zealanders are involved extensively in this shadowy world of offshore companies and secret bank accounts.
The company at the centre of the Washington leaks was set up by New Zealanders, has been staffed by many New Zealanders and for 14 years was majority-owned by the Spencers.
The Spencers have courted controversy. John Spencer waged a 19-year battle to stop public access to the Stony Batter gun emplacement on his Waiheke Island farm, including barricading a public road. The Star-Times revealed in 2005 that his son Berridge and daughter Mertsi were secret National Party donors. And now Spencer is the Kiwi connection to secret tax haven records that may be the largest leak of financial information in history.
Hager goes on to explain the role of kiwis involved in TrustNet, set up 25 years ago, and using the Cook Islands as a tax haven. He recaps the history of the Wine Box affair and Winston Peters’ role in it. A company associated with the Wine Box affair was later renamed TrustNet.
The European Pacific tax expert accused in court of leaking the Winebox documents, New Zealand lawyer George Couttie, had moved on to work for TrustNet in Hong Kong. But soon after this accusation was made, according to internal documents, senior TrustNet staff recorded a terse company resolution that “accepted” his resignation “effective from the date hereof”.
In contrast, European Pacific’s former senior executive Geoff Barry was later hired by TrustNet and rose to become the chief executive officer. Today, 10 years later, he is executive director of TrustNet’s Hong Kong office.
Spencer’s ownership of TrustNet was never publicised. It came to light only during analysis of the leaked records. A note about an obscure offshore entity says “Client is our big boss, John Spencer”.
Hager then outlines the involvement of Trevor Clarke, a TrustNet client and former European Pacific manager. He gives complex details of the involement of Penny Purcell, one of TrustNet’s NZ lawyers, in some dodgy Hong Kong operations. She mislead and/or misinformed some key people while investigations were in progress. Eventually Hong Kong police issued an arrest warrant for TrustNet client and Sound Financial Management shareholder, Canadian, Douglas Crankshaw. He lives near Bangkok.
Purcell has since returned to help run TrustNet’s office on Auckland’s North Shore. She remains part of a network of New Zealand offshore lawyers scattered in tax havens around the world. They include former TrustNet lawyer Barry Mitchell who, according to court documents, gave assistance during the setting up of the Trinity investment scheme, New Zealand’s largest tax avoidance case; and Act Party-aligned blogger Cathy Odgers (‘‘Cactus Kate’’) who has worked as an offshore lawyer in the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.
So it looks like many of the activities of lawyers like Cathy Odgers, while being ethically questionable, are most likely within the law. However, on occasions a few can step over the legal line into criminality, as appears at least one person seems to have done in the Hong Kong case. Odgers, while associated with the complex maze, doesn’t seem to be directly implicated in this. However, Purcell seems to have played a significant role.
The Cyprus situation has caught them all out.
The haircut on the big depositors has revealed the tax haven scam to be very risky business.
It only takes a few billion to leave the Cooks or the BVI and their banking system will collapse with it.
“It only takes a few billion to leave the Cooks … and their banking system will collapse with it.”
OUR banking system! The Cook Islands don’t have their own banking system.
The Cyprus situation caught out only the small depositors.
All those Cypriot banks while closed at home remained open via their London branches and the money was whisked away by those smart enough to not trust banks.
Surely it matters most whether something is ethical, not whether it’s legal. If this shows us that governments are making unethical things legal, and it sure looks that way, then it’s a chance to lobby for law changes.
Yes, it matters, but lobbying won’t fix it because the civil system is fundamentally unethical – it lies about the nature of law itself.
You would think so but the laws have been carefully drafted to bypass morality.
We shouldn’t need to be lobbying for them – the government should be taking action on the evidence. The fact that we will have to lobby for the needed changes and that it will be a hell of a fight against the Big Money protecting itself shows just how corrupt our government is.
Apparently not. For example a PM might retrospectively validate an accusation of illegal behaviour and people who support that PM would argue strongly that it wasn’t illegal, and it was expedient, while dodging the ethics of using parliament to kill off a court case.
I remember you being all for that at the time, so I expect you’d be happy for John Key the Lying Prime Minister to do the same.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
I dunno, One Anonynous Knucklehead has been wrong about pretty much everything from what I’ve seen.
Clearly. It’s different when labour do it…. It’s great to put fine points of law and hide behind the supremacy of parliament defending completely unethical self serving behaviour when Labour do it. Can’t wait for the blind partisan supporters like one hand typist felux to support parliament bailing out anyone implicated in breaking any laws if that implication upsets the divine right of the governing party to do what the fuck they like in their own best interests.
Man, are you still going on about that? You’ve had it explained to you so many times and yet you still choose to be ignorant and stupid about it.
I’m glad that John Key has finally scored a win – NZ has indeed become a “financial hub” of the south pacific. A tax ducking, money laundering centre, that is.
Note: the USA is now forcing Switzerland to give up the names of US tax dodging swiss bank account holders, destroying the Swiss model of banking secrecy.
This change is going to catch out a lot of multi-millionaires, but will leave the billionaires untouched.
In other words, the top 0.001% are leaving the top 0.1% twisting in the wind.
I’ve just viewed the most biased, rude, interruptive “interview” that I’ve ever seen on television.
Susan Wood, supposedly interviewing David Shearer, constantly cut across his attempts at answering questions, criticised his answers, pursued unreasonable personal details – – – the list goes on. I’m complaining to TVNZ and hope others do the same.
This was not an interview. It was an interrogation by a totally biased and incompetent bigot.
Did the same to Helen Kelly. Gave Micheal Barnett a clean run… her head nodding sagely at almost everything he said. Turned the telly off.
Note: the new Q&A set is in dark blue with shades of matching white and a blue and white logo. National Party colours. Susie dresses in navy and white and Barnett wears a nice blue shirt. What do they call it now? Subliminal Psychology?
Well where’s the link?
Here’s the link:
Here’s the link: http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a/2013-04-07-video-5397128
Just watched that. I need a shower.
The links to Q&A don’t usually come up until around noon or even later. That’s been my past experience anyway.
It was definitely an interrogation not an interview. David Shearer was given little opportunity to answer many of the questions before he was rudely interrupted – I’m sure many viewers would have “switched off” as I did. This is public broadcasting at its worst.
God give me strength. Thank christ we have somebody prepared to ask the hard questions and to make sure the respondent stays on track. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a response, you may just pass out.
Don’t make me laugh. No point in asking “hard questions” so fast the interviewee can’t even get an answer in. She was just as bad with Nikki Kaye in the 2nd segment. Reckon TVNZ should be doing a drug test to see if she’s having amphetamines for breakfast.
Watched the interview and analysis that followed and was disgusted. Susan did nothing but shut David and Helen down at every given opportunity and then she found it amusing that David had to ask her to shut up on several occasions so he could respond to her question. Gutter level stuff from Susan. Interviews should be fair and balanced. This was anything but and her attitude toward Helen Kelly was nothing short of rude and arrogant as well. David should have asked Susan if she would be happy to publicly disclose how much money she has in her bank account? That would have shut her up. Have laid a complaint with the TV station. Disgusted.
Well if that’s the standard of presenting and interviewing on Q&A henceforth it’s not going to be worth watching. Basically it’s Susan Wood Interviews Susan Wood.
No Anne, its your case I think they call it extreme paranoia. I saw Garner wearing a red tie during the election – shock horror.
Since set design and wardrobe choice by these professionals is an entirely meticulous and conscious process, I’d have to say that you were full of shit.
What is the difference between vigilance and paranoia, Blue?
Vigilance is usually because of experience that requires it. Paranoia is driven by the need to rationalise the irrational.
So what happens when the vigilant are confronted by the irrational?
Should they be deemed to be paranoid if they attempt to find an explanation for it?
one of your more interesting truths if i may say so.
Agreed. A bit of an enigma is Ugly Truth.
bit of an ennuigma imho.
Oh dear, that right-wing bigot Blue is back. (Not our liberal minded lefty ‘blue’ btw).
Can’t properly cogitate a bit of tongue in cheek. We must be fair, he/she can’t help it:
New Study: Racists and Right-Wingers Tend To Be Dumb
Ah it was humour. So you don’t actually believe that. Very good then. Also please point out where I’ve been “racist”. My Maori partner and children will be fascinated. Moron.
I think Anne was referring to the “dumb” part, in that stupidity predicts for conservative political opinions. The study mentions racism as it is a core belief for many conservatives.
The most racist people I’ve ever met have been the core voters of the left wing, work boots overalls, vacant stares and poorly educated. All were stupid by definition. My experience of these people has at least as much validity as the accusations of “Anne” as any other. Her venomous and cretinous accusations of me are without foundation.
It must have been terrible for you, meeting such horrible people. Can we take up a collection to help you get over it?
So you’re saying racism with work boots is ok but racism in a suit is not ? Thanks Hone. I didn’t “meet” them, they worked for me, thankfully not for very long. Not only racist but really lazy.
How did they come to be working for you?
Contract construction workers on my projects, Civil Engineer before my academic career (mathematics lecturer).
Oh, so you know your times-tables then?
I’ll say it advance… get down off your high horse. I’m only teasing. 😛
I’m glad I never learned any maths off you. By your logic, if a giraffe stands on my foot, I love anteaters. Hmmm.
I always thought Levy flights were interesting, but not as a model for human behaviour and logical thinking.
“So you’re saying racism with work boots is ok but racism in a suit is not ?”
You’re the only person I can see here making a distinction between the two.
You’re also the only person here who seems to think “conservatism” = right-wing.
I think one of the most obvious marks of stupidity can be expressed by the phrase “anecdotes are not data.” Thank you for illustrating it so well 🙂
Well you claim to not be racist, but in reality you’re even more prejudiced than that.
I think Anne was referring to the “dumb” part… Quite.
“Dumb” eh? No high horse here, although from your perspective I guess everything is above you. 😉
Yeah, I really wish these right-wing numpties would stop using my name. People will think I have a split personality 😀
[lprent: good point. After I do the rubbish chore, I will do a name separation with the search and replace tool or a database query. I will check, but I think the other Blue was originally True Blue. ]
No fear of that Blue, most would wonder whether you have a personality of any kind.
Inside the investment banks, its called *structured finance*. Banks pay tax accountants and lawyers from nations to exploit the known loopholes to allow *legal activity* fiancing *deals* using shell companies around the world, not just the traditional taxt havens.
There are networks of private money transfer infrastructure, which bypass the standard global jurisdictional gateways, which customer/payments data pass and are monitored on, such restrictions are for the non billionaires.
Nothing is going to change as a result, this information has been public domain for a long time, its not the first time its come out, and won’t be the last.
Its an insight into the world of those who control the money systems we are constrained by, although none of the names which feature in these investigations, are the top levels!
Bet John Key feels “comfortable” about this.
Maybe these are the people we should use to fill the new Wiri prison…..
The very rich have great power. There is probably no way of bringing to justice to either the “legal” or the illegal. The only one who has battled (and earned undying hatred of the rich) was Mr Peters and the Winebox Enquiry.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to total every dollar in those havens and compare with the total wealth of say NZ or the USA or China or the UK?
The estimates I read say that it’s thousands of billions of dollars, held invisibly in tax havens.
In comparison, annual Australian GDP is around US$1400B.
Or Global GDP of about 50-70T, including the financial services sectors.
Makes it all look very sick once people start to understand the annual derivatives markets alone, are *transactions* worth orders of magnitude the global productive, and un-productive capacity of the entire world, currently!
and are being traded by increasingly autonomous systems in astronomical volumes within infinitesimal time scales that are altogether impossible for humans to track, let alone interact with.
Yep. High frequency automated algorithmic trading. Makes a mockery of the market and its rules. And the exchanges and authorities let it happen.
The first step toward justice is to stop paying tribute to injustice. Taxation was originally a form of tribute.
What UT said is meaningless rhetoric but we should be used to that by now.
Definition of TRIBUTE
1 a : a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection; also : the tax levied for such a payment
b (1) : an excessive tax, rental, or tariff imposed by a government, sovereign, lord, or landlord (2) : an exorbitant charge levied by a person or group having the power of coercion
c : the liability to pay tribute
Your dictionary games are irrelevant.
Throwing out a dictionary definition doesn’t magically make your original comment (or, in fact, any of them) any more meaningful.
CV, DTB – You guys might not agree with some of UT’s comments, but again it seems the general message is going right past you, or perhaps its in the too complex basket, and better to rubbish what UT posts on!
Perhaps you two can give your view on why taxes even need to be paid, where that money ends up, why NZ has so much debt, how much tax or borrowing goes into servicing that debt, what jurisdiction the state has to remove your hard earned cash before you even get to see it, and how it has the power to turn people into IRD tax collecting agents.
Perhaps while you’re there, explain how the state has the authority to remove a child from its birth parents, and why our institutions are so broken, and the legal/judical systems continue to apply laws in uneven, injust ways, seemingly at the expense of the average kiwi.
Think international, and domestic!
Note: I’ve said it here previously that I would doubt there are more than a few people in NZ who have any idea, which are the legally binding treaties, agreements and governing boundaries, which NZ (whatever the hell that actually means), is controlled by internationally, so why the hell would anyone who comments here be one of them!
At least UT sounds like he/she is trying to dig through some of the mesh!
1.) Because we use money to distribute the nations resources
2.) Because of the financial system that has the money being created by the private banks which leaves the government having to raise money
3.) Because of the dead weight loss of profit which removes so much money from circulation requiring ever more money to be loaned into existence via the government loaning it from the banks (see 2.)
A lot ends up in the hands of the banksters (see 2. above)
1.) Because we agree to it – consent of the governed
2.) Because we do each need to do our bit to support society so that we have a society to live in
Yes, it needs looking at. Trying to deny reality of our governance as UT does won’t change that though.
No, he just sounds like a fool who wants us to live in the 14th century under the brutal rule of the aristocracy.
“and the legal/judical systems continue to apply laws in uneven, injust ways, seemingly at the expense of the average kiwi.”
It is the government and practitioners that have conspired by proxy ( not necessarily intentionally, a Buffoon would suffice eg Dunne) to add unnecessarily complexity to both legislation,tax systems and the resulting information entropy.
The so called information age has allowed a greater access to information for a broader spectrum of the populace, similar to the enlightenment of the printing press during the renaissance.The response has been to add greater complexity to legislation and regulatory systems with inbuilt outs for those with ready access to advice and decrease the ability for a larger population to disseminate the information .
The subsequent consequences is the rule of lawyer’s and not the rule of law eg Ferguson.
That sounds about right.
Now one would think that there would be an opportunity to investigate some of these allegations in say the US where peak money and the fiscal deficit ar real problems (the WPOST suggesting tax havens holding 8-32 trillion) but no the US has decide to introduce unpaid leave for the IRS.
love your wit
You may be interested in the eye-watering figures that punctuate this story.
It exposes succinctly how laws are not for everybody
The problematic issue is that the tax and asset wealth avoidance is largest in countries that can least afford such as africa asia etc.
If as evidence suggests the wealth in Africa was not siphoned off it would as a whole be a set of creidtor nations and not debtor nations.Time to terminate the foreign blind trust regimes.
That’s true of all nations that allow “foreign investment” because all that foreign investment does is siphon wealth away from that country.
So who are the “Kiwis” that the SST is being so coy about in the paper article?
Ah, so these are those rich people we’re supposed to thank for paying so much tax.
Hit. Nail. Head.
Not you Blue, you’re a drone.
No felix, we all know that strongly progressive taxation always ends up crushing the middle earners – just some of us choose to ignore that when the party advocating such policies is the party they support and parrot BS for.
Middle earners make $40,000 pa
Jacking up rates on those earning over $100K pa and over $500K pa won’t touch them.
Tell that to 75% of high school teachers classified as rich under the last labour government.
Under a progressive tax system? Next you’ll be saying that teachers were taxed at 39% for their income.
FFS, you really need to go and learn something about taxation regimes rather than sprouting gormless slogans.
The last time we had a strongly progressive tax system in nz was under National in the late 70s and early 80s. The main reason it became strongly progressive was because of a high dollar inflation.
Basically you are full shit because whenever you look at where a progressive taxation system starts cutting into middle incomes, you invariably find that first there was a dumb government (like our current one) borrowing heavily rather than making decisions about sustainable future development. A few years later there is a combination of silly austerity coupled with inflation done to ratchet the tax take done by conservatives because they still won’t fix the fucking problem that they caused in the first place because it requires actual change.. Nationals SMP for sheep being a prime exhibit.
The problem isn’t with the progressive tax system, it is usually with foolhardy conservatives in government refusing to face the future.
John Spencer has turned out to be such a disappointment since the days of the blues explosion.
well, that Muddys the Waters; guess Kate will be dusting her broom. New Zealand; a land of constant sorrows?
speaking of the ‘Blues”, heres a few lines of The Green God / Manalishi
(“better than Clapton” says John (Mayall) )
look at me with those Brown Eyes
How the rich manage to keep their money and cope with the weight of responsibility of all that bread.
A good cover piece by the nz herald – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10665826
“John Spencer – jet-setting septuagenarian and heir to his grandfather’s Caxton paper empire founded in 1890 Mr Spencer spends our winters in the Northern Hemisphere’s aquatic playgrounds particularly around Monaco aboard one of the world’s finest motor yachts, “…
Mr Spencer’s fortune came from the forestry and milling business he took over from his father Berridge in 1981 but he sold out to Carter Holt Harvey in the late 1980s for about $300 million. For 19 years, he waged a battle with Auckland City Council to prevent public access to his Waiheke farm, stopping tourists getting to Stony Batter gun emplacements in a fight which went to the Privy Council…
Mike Lee on the Spencer family and touching on its battles with local authorities to get what it wants. “”John Spencer is an unusual man. He lives in New Zealand but it appears to me that he doesn’t really seem to see himself as a part of New Zealand or a member of New Zealand society. The same goes with his attitude to Waiheke Island. Clearly there were the years of needless, hugely expensive litigation with the Waiheke County Council and then the Auckland City Council over a public road on Waiheke which in 1992 John Spencer barricaded under mounds of earth and effectively appropriated for 10 years until the force of law finally intervened – behaviour one would expect more from young radical members of an aggrieved iwi with a valid, long standing historic claim.”
I apologise to karol for going off thread on this post but here’s a recommendation to those who are interested in the Wine Box Affair. I guess it was a forerunner to what is now going on at a global level.
If you haven’t already done so read (or re-read as I plan to do) Anthony (Tony) Molloy’s book “Thirty Pieces of Silver”. He chronicles the story from start to finish and succeeds in proving beyond reasonable doubt that tax evasion to the tune of millions of dollars by some of NZ’s richest citizens really did occur. That is a rough summation of the book.
He passed all his notes etc. on to the police but guess what… nothing happened. Political interference? I guess so. This happened during the 1990s and not surprisingly by the time the book was publicly released all the major players had shot through to Geneva where they remained for the next ten or more years.
A disgraceful episode, and an excellent example of the power of money and how those who pillage it by unlawful means are frequently never brought to justice.
It’s not at all off topic, Anne. In the Stuff Hager article there’s a reference beside a mention of Winebox, to (see breakout). It doesn’t seem to be with the online article. I suspected it was in the hardcopy.
Using the Auckland Libraries’ member access to press display, I have found that, indeed, there is an article outlining the Winebox affair, beside the Hager article, in the Sunday Star Times today. it gives an outline of the case, with some old piccies of Peters and Fay etc, with Peters looking pretty young.
There’s also some other articles on the issue, including one pointing to some Kiwis, only referred to by one initial, who have benefited from the tax havens:
South Auckland farmer/lawyer -J
Airforce Officer & commercial pilot -B
SAS soldier – W: with 3 Brit SAS officers via British Virgin Islands they set up a company that appears to do something in Sierre Leone, at an address used by mining companies during the civil war there – not clear what the company does.
Busineesman – L: lived in US & NZ since 2001. Filed for bankruptcy in 2009. “In 2006, TrustNet incorporated three new companies in the British Virgin islands for L.”
This all seems to be buried in the Money section, even though there’s a double page spread headed “FOCUS” pp A10-11:
It’s not at all off topic, Anne.
I should have been clearer with my remark karol. I was actually referring to our little right-wing friend Blue. Coudn’t resist the temptation to tease him/her. A bit naughty but they do ask for it sometimes.
Susan Wood’s first husband fits the description “Airforce Officer & commercial pilot -B”
One day we might know.
Interesting (2010) article, thanks, prism.
So, basically it says that the currently living generations owe their wealth to inheritance. The Spencer wealth was developed in the late 19th century, through timber and printing businesses – that at a time when it was possible for Pakeha settlers to get in on the ground floor and establish their wealth foundation. (Albert Spencer, founder of Caxton Paper, born in 1866 in NZ, father was a chemist according to a cached version of an article I couldn’t directly access)
Then, in a 2nd article on the same 2010 date, we see that during the 1930s Berridge Spencer made more money out of buying up a lot of real estate on the North Shore. Son John Spencer continued on with this buying up of residential property.
And in 2010 the Spencers were able to sign a special deal with Takapuna Council to the effect that heritage regulations/protections didn’t apply to them.
So John Spencer did not earn the foundation of his wealth, but continues to skew the system in his own favour.
It does seem to me that many of the wealthy are living off their parents’ legacy. I wonder if that applies to much of NZ.
I think it may be harder to start up a little firm and expand to a decent size these days. Possibly because so many people are contractors, and the reality between these near-employees and the small entrepreneur is muddied.
I have all the Winebox stuff on a ST506 HDD – in a cardboard box – inside my Scud shelter – if only I could find a ST506 controller and 8mhz bus to deliver it..
If John Spencer doesn’t consider himself part of New Zealand why don’t the people of New Zealand Just take away all his New Zealand dollars? He obviously has no connection to them. It could be described as a reality tax.
Nicky Hager will be on Morning Report after 8am this morning on the money maze.