Panama Papers documents released online

Newstalk ZB staff ,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 May 2016, 6:09AM
(Getty Images).

Panama Papers documents released online

Newstalk ZB staff ,
Publish Date
Tue, 10 May 2016, 6:09AM

UPDATED: 9.22am The large database of documents relating to the Panama Papers has been revealed and it names 233 master clients and officers connected to New Zealand.


The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has this morning released details of more than 200,000 offshore accounts, including information about who's really behind hundreds of offshore companies linked to New Zealanders.

Among those named as master clients and officers are Hanover, Ernst and Young, HSBC, ING, Bell Gully and Spicer.

There's nothing to suggest any of the companies has done anything illegal.

They've been named as intermediaries who help to set up clients or a company that plays a role in an offshore entity.

Allan Hubbard's named in the leak of 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, as a shareholder in a British Virgin Islands company.

Once the South Island's richest man, Mr Hubbard founded South Canterbury Finance, which collapsed in 2010 forcing a taxpayer bail-out costing $1.7 billion.

Again, there's nothing to suggest he did anything which broke the law.

One of the investigative journalists from the ICIJ, Will Fitzgibbon, told Andrew Dickens the idea of the database is to replicate a corporate register - so people can search a company and see who's behind it.

LISTEN ABOVE: Will Fitzgibbon talks to Andrew Dickens

He said New Zealand's clean image makes us an enticing option for tax avoiders, trying to avoid more infamous jurisdictions.

"New Zealand is touted, as recently as 2013 and 2014, as a good country to do business in because it doesn't have those associations that many of us have with traditional tax havens."

Sueddeutsche Zeitung lead investigative journalist Bastian Obermeyer told Mike Hosking the issue is widespread and the whole finance sector needs a shake up.

"There's a huge lot going on in Panama but we also see the Cook Islands, we see the British Virgin Islands so it's not one country, it's more the whole industry."

International tax expert May Han said while the big names and companies will get the first headlines...there's something far more important to look at in terms of money being channeled through tax havens.

"What the most important thing at the moment right now is to look at economic crime in terms of terrorism financing, money laundering, proceeds of crimes from human trafficking and drug trade."

There is thought that the sheer size of the Panama Papers leak may have led to this morning's information dump online.

MORE: Dunne 'especially concerned' over Panama Papers revelations

Many of the details have already been revealed by the journalists so the question is why now and why today.

Sky's Hannah Thomas-Peter reports the documents may have been released so the journalists can get some help looking over the information.

"They may well be opening up this trove of documentation to the public and other journalists frankly so that they can have some help, because many of them have admitted freely that given the size of this leak, they could well have missed something.

The ICIJ said they are publishing the information the public interest. 

Ms Thomas-Peter said it'll be a nervous morning for many.

"There will be wealthy people around the world right now who are chewing their fingernails over this latest release."

The data is the largest ever release of information about offshore companies and the people behind them. This includes, when available, the names of the real owners of those opaque structures.

The database also displays information about more than 100,000 additional offshore entities ICIJ had already disclosed in its 2013 Offshore Leaks investigation.

The database is from leaked files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

LISTEN: Foreign trusts are 'a stain on NZ's reputation' - expert 

SEE ALSO:  Rachel Smalley: New Zealand is just another cog in the tax avoidance wheel