Revisiting New Zealand in 1976 (the Listener) #3

Well it’s the end of September in 1976, and the cover of the listener has a publicity shot for a new New Zealand TV drama, Hunter’s Gold. This is a young adult costume drama, set in the goldfields of Otago, in the South Island, in the nineteenth century. It was written by an ex-pat, Roger Simpson, but still marks the revitalisation of the TV and film industry in this period, and the interest in historical dramas set in colonial times.

The other cover story involves the plight of a native bird, a flightless parrot called the Kakapo. Written by Anna Kenna, the story of the likely extinction of the Kakapo focusses on the lack of knowledge of the bird up to that point, given that there had been no confirmed identification of any females for many years. There has now been a breeding programme for some time, but there are still less than 200 Kakapo alive. But, other female activists are highlighted in the listener this week, after a mention last week: Elsie Locke writes about education, and Sue Kedgley is interviewed in the Persons column.

In this week’s Rock column Gordon Campbell reviews a Motown LP called The Bitch is Back, by Yvonne Fair. Not the one by Elton John. Elton and Kiki Dee are still top of the singles chart, holding out against two Abba songs, and Henry Gross. Neil Diamond is still top of the Albums chart (with Beautiful Noise), and has Hot August Night enter at number 15. The album storming into the top 10 is Frampton Comes Alive, at number 9, just below the Seekers, and just above the Dark Side of the Moon. The other big mover is Joe Walsh with You Can’t Argue with a Sick Mind at number 19, just below Olivia Newton-John.

On to the Wednesday night TV listings, and the write ups of the prime time British shows. On TV 1 there is a photo of Erin Geraghty and Fiona Fullerton in their nurses uniforms for Angels. And on TV2 there is a somewhat poorly reproduced publicity shot of Gabrielle Drake playing croquet, in a very long dress, with the caption “Gabrielle with the nice brown hair.” It’s hard to tell if she has brown hair, due to the black and white shot, but we are assured she does have brown hair, and was only wearing a blonde wig in The Brothers.

At 8.30 pm on TV1 we see the third episode of Survivors, called ‘Gone Away’, written by Terry Nation. Gone Away begins with a long scene in which Tom Price, played by Talfryn Thomas, comes across a deserted farm, and decides to take a shot gun, before catching a glimpse of a boy in a kitchen mirror. Tom Price is a key character for Terry Nation, a kind of rover with a habit of talking his way out of situations, what we would call a bit of a bullshit artist. In Nation’s book Tom Price is the last one left, the ultimate survivor, but in the TV series he initially appears to be not more than a tramp with a habit of lying. It seems that Talfryn may not have been a very pleasant fellow, but the man could act.

The Tom Price character tends to pop up at odd times in the first few episodes as a minor one, but becomes more endearing with repeated viewings on DVD, even adding a hint of humour at times. In the first episode he is asleep in a makeshift shelter on a hill when Jenny comes across him, and they have a brief conversation. By the second episode Jenny is desperate for some company when she encounters Price again, coming out of a mens store wearing a new suit, and about to get in a Rolls Royce. Tom’s brief joy ride in the Roller is the only light bit of the second episode, but he continues to keep his distance from Jenny, and prefers to roam around completely aimlessly, avoiding other people.

The Tom Price character stands out because he is the only one that appears to get dirty; even though the other characters are also sleeping rough, they always appear to be clean. This indicated some of the problems with continuity that Survivors had, and also that only some aspects of the story were realistic. Of course it’s all about class. The criticism of Survivors was that it lacked diversity, all of the characters were middle class, except Tom Price. I would have thought that was the point in a way: all these middle class people that have secure lives or useful functions in the old society find themselves ill-equipped to survive the post-plague world. This was even more the case with the female characters, all are very safe in a way, and none are grubby little liars like Tom Price.

One of the only things that Price says in Gone Away that was true, is that he came across the young boy in a dispute over a chicken. This was just before he found Abby Grant’s new settlement in an abandoned church, with her knickers on a makeshift washing line, and he decided to help himself to some food and then have a kip. In the meantime, Abby, Jenny and Greg Preston have gone away to get some more fuel for the Volvo, and to scavenge for food at an out of the way store. There they encounter rats, a dead body with a ‘looter’ sign hanging from it, and a trio of men with guns. They are led by Dave Long (played by Brian Peck who is also in The Brothers), who are part of Arthur Wormley’s militia. After a stand-off, and the trio holding up our heroes at gun-point, Jenny grabs one of the guns from the character in a suit and tie (played by Robert Gillespie). Abby takes the keys from their jeep, Preston shoots out a tyre, and the heroes are off in the Volvo. After some soul searching on a river footbridge, Abby realises that there will be many men with guns, and no co-operative effort to re-build society as she had assumed.

When the Volvo gets back to the church the trio come across Tom Price, they build a fire, then decide that the young boy Price tells them about might be Abby’s son. Off the trio go into the woods as darkness falls. This is when we get the quote that provides the blurb for the TV listing for Gone Away. Greg Preston feels the need to tell Abby it might not be her son Peter who is holed up with the man in the woods. And by the time they get there both the man and the boy have died of a secondary illness. And so the trio of survivors press on, looking for the lost schoolboy, but only after Dave Long’s trio return to bust up their settlement. Tom Price then decides to go with them, not to be seen again for the following three episodes, and the next two being penned by Jack Ronder, with no guns.

 

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Revisiting New Zealand in 1976 (the Listener) #2

This week the listener cover story (18 September) features a preview of a radio programme titled ‘Ladies, a plate please’. For those that don’t know what this means, it refers to the cultural practice whereby, when inviting a couple to a social event, the female was to bring a plate, preferably with something appetising on it (usually home baking). The cover features prominent cook Alison Holst, opera singer Kiri te Kanawa, and a young Marilyn Waring, who had just been elected to Parliament aged about 23.

The article is titled ‘Feminism: the wave rolls on’, and features veteran campaigner Elsie Locke, Rosslyn Noonan, the NZ organiser for International Women’s Year 1975, and Susan Kedgley, described as ‘a spokesperson for women’s lib in New Zealand in the early 70s’. Kedgley is ‘back here on leave from New York’, without mentioning her job at the U.N., where she apparently dated Kofi Annan. Sue Kedgley would later become a Green Party MP, along with Keith Locke (son of Elsie), who was targeted by security services.

Anyway back to the listener. There is a particularly interesting article on abstract art by Wystan Curnow. This includes photographs of paintings by Gordon Walters and Gretchen Albrecht which are probably worth a small fortune now. Ray Columbus writes the rock column this week, firstly introducing the readers to a German band named Kraan, which don’t fit into the Krautrock genre. Meanwhile, Joe Walsh has released You Can’t Argue with a Sick Mind, ably assisted by the other Eagles. The Eagles Greatest Hits moves up one place on the charts, Dark Side of the Moon moves down two, Hideaway by America comes in at 14, and Santana’s Amigos makes a rapid rise to reach number 17.

Moving to the Wednesday evening TV listings. Both The Brothers and Survivors are promoted with photos of the stars and a write up on the page. Brother David Hammond is played by Robin Chadwick, and he is seen kneeling in front of his Kendo equipment. Apparently Chadwick is a New Zealander, born in Whakatane, and he did all the usual Kiwi lurks, ‘like working on the wharves and in the woolsheds at night’. Meanwhile, on the TV1 page we see a photo of Carolyn Seymour, shivering in the winter cold, with a caption ‘Survivor?’. Her character, Abby Grant, is quoted as saying that “we’re less practical than Iron Age men,” without the ability to make and maintain all the complex systems of modern living. Apparently the real question in Survivors, according to the write up, is whether our ‘shaky pyramid’ of unstable globalism is re-created, or a new civilisation is formed with ‘the tiller of the soil recognised for his skills and where nuclear fission is only used peacefully’.

Of course Survivors was known for philosophical discussions of the big picture, the future of mankind, that kind of thing. But mostly by male characters with something of a messianic complex. The Abby Grant quote comes from a conversation with the character Arthur Wormley, played by George Baker, who leads what turns out to be an all male militia in a country house. Abby is attracted to the veneer of normality, and the sight of the power being on and a cooked dinner. But after repeating her spiel about civilisation she realises that Wormley, a former trade union hard man, actually leads a vigilante type of outfit. In his own meandering speech, and his tie and tweed jacket, Wormley declares that he is the one with the organisation skills to re-create a government, and also to allocate the remaining food supplies. He also executes his main rival, an ex military man who may have owned the house they are occupying, over Mrs Grant’s objections.

This second episode, ‘Genesis’, introduces the third character in the trio of survivors, Greg Preston. Preston makes a rather grand entrance, flying a helicopter back from the Netherlands, where he has been working as an engineer. Preston is able to land right beside his small cottage in the countryside and finds his wife dead, something that does not seem to bother him that much. He then drives off in his nifty MG car, looking to exercise his new found freedom. It is not too long, though, before he runs into a woman, Anne, flagging him down on the road. She is living in a shed in an abandoned quarry, with a man who has just had an accident and is pinned under a tractor. Preston proves his practicality by getting Vic out from underneath the tractor, but then begins to realise that Anne expects him to stay with them, and their impressive stock of collected goodies.

The quarry is both a metaphor for the prevailing econmic system, and a good place to hide out, at risk only of complete boredom. Anne herself turns out to be an aristocrat that is rather mercurial, at times almost pathetic, and at others rather strident in her ambition for commandeering as much stuff as she can. The parallel with Wormley is interesting, as the story cuts between the two scenes at the quarry and the country house that Wormley’s men occupy. Anne realises that any kind of accident could prove fatal, so she wants to live it up a bit; and, ironically perhaps, she also knows that money itself is no longer the main currency, it will be the control of the goods. There’s “an abundance of everything” according to Anne, as long as she has a man to look after her like Preston.

There is another quote from Anne that was chosen for the TV listing for the ‘Genesis’ episode. As one of the new rich, and holder of ‘things’, Anne expects that other people can do the work for them in return for a warm coat, and things like that. Preston is sceptical, and after trying to attend to Vic’s injuries, heads off in the morning not expecting to return. But, after raiding a pharmacy in town, and picking Lucy Fleming’s character (Jenny), he returns down the road to the quarry. There he meets Anne walking up in her fur coat and with a bag. She announces that Vic has died, and the trio head off to find another shelter. But Jenny and Preston end up with Abby, and leave Anne behind. So the actual story will be the trio, but it would have been better with just Abby and Jenny. Certainly, in Terry Nation’s book Anne, whom he calls Sarah, tries (unsuccessfully) to seduce Greg Preston; but in the TV series, Vic survives to seek revenge on Anne.

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Revisiting New Zealand in 1976 (the Listener) #1

Margaret Thatcher did visit New Zealand in September 1976. She even made the cover of the listener magazine. The listener was the magazine provided by the State which gave the listings for the two public TV channels, and the publicly-owned radio channels. But it was also the home of current affairs journalism in New Zealand at the time, as well as many cultural columns including Rock music, and only cost 20 cents. It was also a big magazine in terms of size, pages bigger than A4, and there were over 100 pages to read.

I was looking for a photography article by Geoff Chapple, but couldn’t find it in the archived copy (there was a photocopy provided). Instead I found a fascinating read, not just because of Margaret Thatcher on the cover, along with pictures of the five lead actors in the British TV series Angels which was due to start its run on Wednesday nights. If you might think the magazine leaned to the ‘right’, one might also notice a column named Persons, in which Geoff Chapple interviewed Willie Mae Reid, Vice Presidential candidate of the American Socialist Workers Party, quoted as saying, “capitalism produces its own grave-diggers in greater and greater numbers.” Meanwhile, Margaret Thatcher’s friend, who worked for the NZ Prime Minister at the time, is quoted as saying that Mrs T was offering ‘capitalism with a conscience’. That obviously didn’t go so well.

There are many things of interest here, including the publication of the National Record Sales chart. Number 63 indicates that ‘Shannon’, by Henry Gross, was still at the top of the chart, closely followed by the Swedish group (‘Fernando’), and Elton John with Kiki Dee. The Swedish group also featured in the Albums chart, with two Rod Stewart offerings, as well as the Royal Scam, Wings at the Speed of Sound, and the Dark Side of the Moon at number 10. Gordon Campbell reviews the book by Greil Marcus, Mystery Train, for his rock column, and expresses disappointment in John McLaughlin’s new LP (Shakti).

On to Wednesday night television listings. TV1 has Angels debuting at 7pm, followed by Barney Miller at 8, and something called Survivors at 8.30pm, before current affairs at 9.30pm. Meanwhile, TV2 has Bless this House at 7.30pm, followed by The Brothers at 8, Kojak at 9, and the News at Ten. Wow, news on both channels, never happens now, but what to pick for a drama. The TV1 page has a picture of the ‘survivors’ played by Ian McCulloch (not actually in the first episode), Lucy Fleming, and Carolyn Seymour; while the TV2 page shows a very sexy photo of Brothers actress Hillary Tindall in a pool, rather than Gabrielle Drake. Despite this I know that I did watch Survivors at age 8 in 1976.

The reason I remember Survivors, despite being only 8 years old, and despite all the TV I did watch in the late 1970s, was because of the scary title sequence and accompanying theme music. This was where the Asian scientist drops a test tube, infects himself with a variant of the plague, travels to the eastern bloc country, collapses on the tarmac of the airport, and proceeds to infect the entire world due to international travel by plane. The blurb for the series tell us that 98% of the world population dies as a result. For the first episode, ‘The Fourth Horseman’, there follows a strange quote from the programme.

As we know, Survivors was created by Welshman Terry Nation, better known for creating the Daleks in Doctor Who, and for Blakes Seven, which he turned to after the first series of Survivors. The series was filmed mostly in rural England during the winter of 1974, before the actual ‘winter of discontent’, and of course is unremittingly bleak. It was also very innovative in a number of ways, without the budget and technology that the post-apocalyptic genre relies on now. But is it really the first post-apocalyptic drama series, and the only series to have two female leads, or is it of interest for other reasons?

On the face of it the story is about Abby Grant, a middle class woman with one child, living in the English countryside in relative luxury. After she survives the plague outbreak she goes off in search of her son, who was at a boarding school in the country. The first episode sets this scenario up, and includes a parallel story where a London resident, Jenny Richards, comes through the outbreak unscathed, and heads out to the countryside in search of company. Abby and Jenny don’t meet until the end of the second episode, so the first instalment acts as something of a pilot, and is the most interesting.

So Abby Grant drives off to the school and only finds corpses, until noticing a light in a technology room. There she finds a teacher, Dr Bronson, who is mostly deaf and at a loss to know what he can do. But after apprising Mrs Grant of the situation regarding her son Peter, who has left the school with a camping group, he eventually launches into his last lecture. This is when we reach the dialogue quoted in the programme listing: “we are of the generation that landed a man on the Moon, but the best we can do is talk of making tools from stone.” Bronson’s point is that once the existing infrastructure is gone, it can’t be replaced. In fact, with death on such a scale there is not the skill to actually maintain the existing technology. The character extrapolates from this that the underlying problem has been the over-specialisation, and an advanced division of labour means that no one has the skill to actually master all the processes that produce commodities.

It has to be said that this is interesting, but not the first thing that survivors of the plague would grasp. Nation seems to have used the Bronson character, and Peter Copley’s brilliant cameo, to hightlight the deference to formal education in British society. So Dr Bronson’s point is that there has to be a return to a traditional, small scale society, where all the ‘old crafts’ are re-learned and passed down by the elders. He might have also said that most of what was taught in boarding schools was of no practical use to survive with, even if it wasn’t in the formal curriculum. In particular, he is most proud of the radio ham equipment made and used by the boys to contact people around the world. All that has now gone, but those ideas of globalization turned not to be of much use in the end.

The other episodes in the first series of Survivors written by Nation have equally interesting dialogues between characters, and reflect on the underlying economic structure of British society. But he did not write the middle episodes, which took the series in the wrong direction, especially as Abby Grant’s son is never really part of the story. Carolyn Seymour’s character, at least initially, took Bronson’s lecture rather literally, and sought to create a commune based on subsistence farming and self sufficiency. Those ideas were fashionable at the time, but did not make for much drama, so various conflicts over resources had to be written into the stories, and reflect the domination of the male characters. It was too much to expect male writers to provide good dialogue for female lead characters: Carolyn Seymour was sacked by the producer, but Lucy Fleming’s Jenny character survived, and by the third series she is determined to turn the power back on. I may look at other first series episodes for more 1970s insights.

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Now for something completely different

grace

This may be the last blog post, or a change in direction, but has nothing to do with tax havens. It is time to renew the blog, and pay WordPress for the privilege, as I can’t seem to go back to the free blog site I started with. There are still readers so I feel obliged to keep it alive, even though the situation is not very conducive. In particular, I do have a Gmail address to go with the site but don’t publicise it for obvious reasons (scams). And the fact that the alerts from the blog are put into spam by Gmail; and that there are also alerts from other well known blogs on tax havens and money laundering that I should be getting but don’t receive at all.

But back to the photo. For those that don’t know this is Grace Slick at Woodstock, fifty years ago, in some sort of excelsis. I copied it from a lengthy piece about Woodstock on the London Review of Books website. And if you have not heard of the Jefferson Airplane, and the role of Grace Slick as the co-lead vocalist, you’ve missed something worthy of remembrance. She is heard on the Woodstock recording announcing that they were playing ‘morning maniac music’, having missed their evening slot, and that this was a ‘new dawn’. As good as any place to make a new start with the blog, and simply pursue interesting cultural things, with an ear and eye mostly on the 1970s. Enjoy.

 

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Updates and stuff

It’s Mayday, and so a good time to write. Not much happens here in New Zealand, unlike offshore. But a few things have happened recently in the tax haven and AML situation, with the regulators actually enforcing the rules. But before referring to that, a comment on the media, and it’s handling of a story derived from the Panama Papers.

Last week both publicly owned broadcasters, TVNZ and RNZ, published a brief apology on their websites to Akezhan Kazhegeldin. Kazhegeldin is a former Prime Minister in Kazakhstan who was mentioned in one of the stories that emerged from the Panama Papers in 2016, that RNZ and some TVNZ staff had access to via Nicky Hager. The particular story has been removed from official websites but can still be found on-line. It implied that Kazhegeldin had used New Zealand trusts, and companies set up in the British Virgin Islands, for the investment of his wealth into London properties. And it showed that constructing stories based on public figures, who happen to have used the offshore industry, was easy at the time, but the story needed an actual AML angle.

The rather terse apologies simply state that Kazhegeldin had provided documentation that proved that these property investments, handled by his daughter, Dianna Battaglia, were all above board. Hence he wasn’t the typical kleptocrat from Kazakhstan, but was being falsely accused of money laundering. Kazhegeldin, or his daughter, were involved with the Cone Marshall firm in Auckland, whose New Zealand Trust Corporation acted as trustee for a Venezuelan Trust, and Zarek Investments Ltd in the British Virgin Islands. The original story simply referred to the doubts that Mossack Fonseca had about politically exposed people from Kazakhstan, given that Battaglia had used exactly the same method of London property investment as her father’s arch rival, the longstanding president of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev.

So did the New Zealand media have to cave in, given what we already knew about Mr Kazhegeldin? In a lengthy article in the New York Times from 2006, entitled ‘Oil, Cash & Corruption’, Ron Stodghill laid out the links between Kazhegeldin and some American operatives. It seems that Kazhegeldin was similar to the other oligarchs emerging from the post-Soviet state, he even trained with the KGB.  Although he made his fortune in chemical fertilizer exports, Kazhegeldin was investigated over oil trading, even if this was connected to his presidential challenge against Nazarbayev in 1999. Kazakhstan obviously has a lot of oil, but is favoured by Washington, unlike Venezuela. And the fact that Kazhegeldin has remained a vocal critic of Nazarbayev suggests protection.

I had referred to some other links between Kazakhstan and Cone Marshall in the post titled ‘Strange Brew’. And in the post titled ‘Great Danes?’, I also wrote about the activities of two other Auckland-based trust companies, Equinor Trust and Denton Morrell. It seems that Denton Morrell has now received a formal warning from the Department of Internal Affairs, for not complying with the new AML/CFT Act requirements. In particular, the regulators state that it has failed to ensure due diligence concerning its offshore clients transactions, and has not implemented the AML/CFT programme it should have, though it has not actually been accused of facilitating money laundering. This is the third formal warning, apparently, but the previous offender, Equity Trust International, was struck off before it could implement an AML programme. Denton Morrell came under further scrutiny because it was linked to cases first exposed by Daphne Caruana Galizia, and pursued by Nicky Hager in 2018 for RNZ, related to the Azerbaijan government.

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Anti-Money Laundering and the press in New Zealand

There is a strange advertisement that sometimes appears in the community newspapers here, at least some near Wellington. Over an attractive photo of some wilderness there is a catchphrase in largish lettering, “An Oasis For Native Species”; and in smaller type beneath this is “Not for financing terrorism.” This advertisement is for a government campaign against money laundering, known as Keep Our Money Clean. On this website with high production values there are other nice photos with slogans over the top of them, such as: “An Unspoilt Wilderness For Us, Not for Money Launderers.”

The website is meant to announce the phasing in of the AML/CFT legislation, and increasing the scope to more organisations, including real estate agents on 1st January 2019. The intention of the text seems to be to warn people of the extra information now required of them, and that doesn’t explain why this advertisement is in the giveaway local press, perhaps the government can’t afford to advertise in the mainstream press. But there is even more in the way of information that the owners of companies will be required to provide the Companies Office soon. The government want to know who the beneficial owners are, the real owners, and have it added to the public database.

There has been a process of submissions on the beneficial ownership proposal for Parliament. And there has even been a press article on some of the high profile submissions, under the label ‘money laundering’, and in the print version (6/11/18) of the Dominion Post, titled ‘Venture capitalists fret over transparency plan’. Transparency International were in favour of the public register, as well as adding the ownership of the foreign trusts. Even the law firm Russell McVeagh supported the proposal, despite being involved in tax haven activity and tax evasion schemes in the 1980s. However, a previously unknown association of venture capitalists oppose transparency, as it would reduce the attractiveness of New Zealand for investment. The really interesting submission quoted is from Cone Marshall, described as a law and accounting firm in Auckland. They claimed that the proposal put wealthy investors at risk of physical or emotional harm, by which they seem to be referring to the chance of kidnapping.

These transparency proposals are made in conjunction with highlighting the role of residential addresses. Of course, many of the owners of companies seem to have multiple addresses in New Zealand, as well as overseas; Geoffrey Cone apparently has had many residences in South America, as well as around Auckland. There has also been a recent focus on the Chinese owners of New Zealand companies, who have local residences as well as addresses in China or Hong Kong. There are also many Europeans in Hong Kong. And there are examples of where the Companies Office have accepted misleading addresses related to these individuals.

One such expat is Johnathan Ian Banks, who became a director of an overseas Non-ASIC company called Southern Rock Insurance Co. Yes, if that name is familiar it is the insurance company associated with Arron Banks, the controversial donor of millions to the Brexit campaign. But back to his bother Johnathan for a moment. When he took over from his brother as director his address was in Moorslade Lane, Falfield, which looks right, but this was apparently in Wotton-under-Edge. The Google map shows that the latter is some distance from Falfield, though both are Gloucestershire. Jonathan later moved to the Lobster Bay Villas in Clearwater Bay, Gloucestershire, but this is actually in Hong Kong. And by this time it was irrelevant anyway, as the company had ceased business on 31st December 2013. But the notice of this was not placed until the 30th June 2016. There were other directorial changes during this interregnum to Southern Rock Insurance NZ, for which there was still a slew of directors: including Messrs Birrell, Clayden, Coetzee, Gillighan, Wigmore, Robinson; and Ms Trudy McGiffen of Gibraltar.

Southern Rock was apparently part of Arron Banks’ empire, for which there are so many questions, but one of them is not what he and his cronies were doing in the former colonies like New Zealand. The financial reports for Southern Rock on the public database indicate that it did not do very much business at all between 2006 and 2016 (or late 2013). And while Southern Rock appeared to be run from Gibraltar, Arron Andrew Fraser Banks also had a number of New Zealand companies registered between December 2005 and September 2013. Of the five listed there are three named after variations on ‘E Group’ and two titles beginning with ‘Group Direct’. These companies were apparently administered by a small firm of accountants in Palmerston North, a provincial city in the North Island, but are also linked to offices in Brisbane, Australia.

Perhaps more interesting is the short-lived company called Bunker Investments Ltd, that Banks had registered between April 2005 and July 2007. The other shareholder/directors of Bunker Investments included Bruce Phillip West, who appears to be based on the North Shore of Auckland, and John William Gannon. The latter is a well known crony of Banks, and both gave the same business address in Bristol, England to be the directors. But the same documentation provides different addresses for the shareholding: both Banks and Gannon ended up with 25 million shares in Bunker Investments, but gave addresses in Favona, Auckland. Favona is a suburb that most people have not heard of, including me. Banks apparently lived in Favona Road, in a rather modest house by the look of the Google image, and Gannon lived round the corner in Jury Place (probably in a more recent in-fill abode). Was the Arron Banks really slumming it in South Auckland in the mid 2000s, amidst some poor Polynesian people, and at such great risk of being kidnapped?

 

 

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No more Tax Haven in New Zealand?

After a bit of a break from blogging, while doing some historical research, the situation has been moving in New Zealand. A new government was elected and there certainly has been some progress, some of it has an element of continuity, and there are new proposals coming out of the bureaucracy.  Legislation concerning foreign corporations and the Base Erosion and Profit-shifting measures was passed in the Parliament recently. The enhanced Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regime has come to place this month. And it was also announced that the new requirements on foreigners holding New Zealand bank accounts has been effective, in that those not complying have had their accounts frozen for the moment.

The picture seems to have changed on the tax evasion front. So is New Zealand still a tax haven, and is the legislative framework still in place for foreigners to move money without effective scrutiny? Could be still too early to say. The new AML measures may not be effective, especially as it seems to require so-called ‘professionals’ to report any suspicious activity. A local expert with a PhD from an Australian university, Ron Pol, thinks that the AML regime is still inadequate, based on overseas experience and the expectations placed on New Zealand authorities to make a substantive difference now.

After all there has been a tax haven framework in place, in effect through the trust legislation, since 1988, which was largely unknown. And the officials appear to have been in denial of this, even after it was exposed due to the Panama Papers. Last year a disclosure regime was superimposed on the so-called ‘foreign trust’ sector, and this was judged to have been effective in deterring the money launderers. So there was no talk about there being a tax haven here, even though the trust law had not changed.

But the real problem in denying that the tax haven existed are the views on trusts that remain entrenched in the bureaucracy, and the contradictory proposals that have come out of the ministry responsible for commercial law and company registration. Firstly, there is a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) within the police that is now responsible for the AML regime. They put out a report earlier this year that should be concerning. Not only did they fail to address the historical blind eye turned to the tax haven, but they also denied the link to money laundering over the years, which they could not calculate. Moreover, they seemed to accept the place of trust and company providers, who were offering to set up foreign trusts and shell companies.

In the report the FIU appeared to state that money laundering was a possibility through the abuse of foreign trusts in New Zealand. But, given the way the trust law was changed, it was not really an abuse at all, given that it went unnoticed. The FIU claimed that foreign trusts were the result of a ‘principled’ approach to trust law. It is hard to know what the principle was that they are referring to, in fact, it was just a theory about the role of the ‘settlor’ in setting up trusts. As I have pointed out before, the Treasury were advised putting this so-called principle into practice, since it set up a tax haven framework. This international expert was ignored in 1987-88 and the ‘foreign trust’ legal form was born. Now the FIU claim it was a legitimate market opportunity, and led to the development of asset protection trusts. Of course, the asset protection trusts were actually developed in the Cook Islands, by New Zealand lawyers, to provide a product that was immune from legal probing by creditors etc.

The problem with the trust law, and the regime of the ‘foreign trusts’ still remains. So is there still a tax haven, really? Part of the problem with the new disclosure regime, and the move to make settlors provide tax information, was that the ownership of trusts was not to be made public. Only the Inland Revue Department would be informed. The privacy of trusts still remains the guiding principle underlying new proposals. Thus, the commerce ministry, known here MBIE, has two new proposals. One is to make the beneficial ownership of New Zealand companies transparent, both for tax purposes and for public searches. This would obviously be a blow to the money launderers, and those that use New Zealand shell companies. But the foreign trusts would not have beneficial ownership made public, and so the secrecy remains.

The other new proposal seems to move in the opposite direction. Here it seems that MBIE want to maintain the ease of doing business in New Zealand, and making company formation as simple as possible. So they want to restrict the information that company directors have to make public, in terms of residential addresses. They claim that having directors make their residences searchable has, in a few instance, led to harassment. This means that all directors can opt out of this and just have a registered address for the company. A number of points follow from this. Having searched company records on-line I have noticed the difference between a residential address, and a residence. There are many directors who seem to have multiple residential addresses – so where do they actually reside? This applies to directors who are obviously foreigners, but also seem to have New Zealand residential addresses. Some are obvious nominee directors or shareholders, some are not. Then there are the local residents who act as nominee directors, and have many different addresses over time. Someone like Geoffrey Cone has addresses in South America, especially Uruguay, and across Auckland; he even uses his ex wife’s address and their former holiday home.

A similar problem occurs with relying on company addresses, or the ‘address for service’ given by the information provider. Some of these apparently physical locations just don’t exist, there may be a building there but nobody is home. Other times it may be an address in the literal sense, but not for any substantive business presence. Thus it is hard to see how this change to directors addresses would alter the shell company game. The FIU and MBIE like to refer to action taken against the Taylor family over their shell companies, and their historical case of arms trading, but as I and others have shown, the Taylor operation was never shut down, and other family members simply became the new nominee directors and shareholders for the shell companies.

I may well take a closer look at some of the non-existent, or zombie company addresses, located around Wellington (which is the home of the public service in New Zealand). But the point is that the tax haven here still needs to be pointed out before it can be closed down for good, even if the government officials continue to deny its existence.

 

 

Posted in public finance, tax havens, Uncategorized | 10 Comments