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Mossack Fonseca link `irrelevant': Key

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/04/2016

The connection between law firm Mossack Fonseca and a client company that bought land in New Zealand is irrelevant, Prime Minister John Key says.

The Panama-based company has been at the centre of a global uproar over secretive foreign trusts since millions of its documents were leaked.

Labour MP David Cunliffe said on Thursday he had identified its client company which was cleared to buy Onetai Station in Taranaki in 2014.

It was Ceol and Muir, which announced its purchase at the time.

"We must be told exactly what good character tests were applied, and to whom, when approval was granted," Mr Cunliffe said.

Mr Key says the connection is irrelevant because the test applies to the people who bought the station, not Mossack Fonseca, Fairfax reports.

"The Overseas Investment Office have a specific responsibility to look at the individual buyer and ask the question as to whether they meet the good character test, my understanding is that they looked at that," Mr Key said.

Ceol and Muir announced the purchase of the 1320ha station in April 2014 and it was reported by New Zealand media.

The company described itself as an Argentine/Italian consortium and said it planned to increase sheep and beef production on the station.

The purchase was handled by New Zealand law firm Kensington Swan, which said it had been looking for a suitable property on behalf of Ceol and Muir for some time.

After Ceol and Muir bought the station, which is near Awakino, local beef farmers were taken on as advisers and some are reported to be directors of Onetai Farms Ltd.

The government said in April this year it knew about the transaction and had asked the Overseas Investment Office to review it to make sure everything was above board.

Mr Cunliffe says he isn't suggesting anything was wrong.

"I'm not calling into question the reputation of individuals," he told RNZ.

Foreign trusts, which Mossack Fonseca specialises in setting up, are legal but they can be used to hide wealth from tax authorities and launder money.

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