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Key declares deposit in trust company

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 12/04/2016

Prime Minister John Key has declared a short-term deposit in a company specialising in setting up foreign trusts, but a spokesman says there's an innocent explanation.

The declaration is in parliament's latest register of pecuniary interests, which shows the deposit was made to Antipodes Trust Group Ltd.

The group describes itself on its website as a specialist provider of trustee services for foreign trusts using New Zealand as their jurisdiction.

It goes on to explain the benefits of having a foreign trust in New Zealand, an issue that's being debated intensely in the aftermath of the Panama Papers leak.

A spokesman for Mr Key told NZ Newswire that Ken Whitney, who is executive director of Antipodes Trust Group, had been the prime minister's private lawyer for a long time.

"The short-term deposit is used to pay for any costs incurred from the prime minister's family trusts," the spokesman said.

"The surplus funds are reinvested short-term with New Zealand trading banks."

Mr Key's link with the group wasn't declared in last year's register.

The spokesman said that was because Mr Whitney had changed firms.

Mr Key didn't declare any foreign trusts in the register, and insists he's never had one.

Earlier on Tuesday Labour leader Andrew Little tabled his tax returns in parliament, challenging Mr Key to do the same.

Mr Key said it was a stunt, and he doesn't intend releasing his own tax records.

The Panama Papers involved 11.5 million documents leaked from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The documents revealed the existence of 204,000 offshore trusts and companies in more than 200 countries.

New Zealand was one of them, and the papers are reported to mention New Zealand more than 60,000 times.

The government on Monday announced an independent review of the rules around foreign trusts that are set up in New Zealand.

There are legitimate reasons for having a foreign trust, but they can also be used for tax avoidance and money laundering.

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