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Station buyers had criminal record: Labour

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/04/2016

The Argentine buyers of a Taranaki station were convicted in their own country because a tannery they owned leaked chemicals into a river, it's been revealed.

Rafael and Federico Grozovsky were cleared to buy Onetai Station in 2014, and announced the purchase at the time.

Labour MP David Cunliffe, who discovered the identities of the station's buyers, is now asking why the Overseas Investment Office allowed it to go ahead.

"They've been found criminally responsible for offences of environmental pollution," he said on RNZ on Friday.

"How could they have possibly passed a good character test when environmental considerations are built in as part of that test?"

The OIO has reviewed the case and says the Grozovsky brothers provided a statutory declaration stating all the individuals who would be in control of the form were of good character.

It was satisfied those declarations could be relied on, and it followed due process when it considered the application.

The purchase of the 1320ha station came to light because the brothers, trading as a company called Ceol and Muir, were clients of Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca.

It specialises in setting up foreign trusts, which are legal but can be used to hide wealth from tax authorities or launder money.

It's been under intense international scrutiny since millions of its documents were leaked to the media.

At the time of the purchase, 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 local law firm Kensington Swan, which said it had been looking for a suitable property on behalf of Ceol and Muir for some time.

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