NZ PM can’t get his story straight re: foreign trust lobby

Bernard Hickey | 3 May 2016

John Key’s apparently casual conversation in late 2014 with his lawyer Ken Whitney over the IRD’s plans for a review of foreign trusts will no doubt be in the spotlight, given Whitney went on to use Key’s name to successfully lobby Todd McClay to drop the review.

Key has said Whitney misrepresented his views in an email to McClay requesting a meeting, but Whitney remains Key’s lawyer. Key said he knew nothing about the planned review, even though IRD had published its international tax work programme on November 26 with proposals for the review and Adam Bennett had reported on November 27 that foreign trusts were in the IRD’s sights.

Whitney told McClay that Key had told him the Government had no plans for a review.

Key also appeared to contradict himself in an interview yesterday with Guyon Espiner where he said he had told McClay about the meeting with Whitney, whereas he had previously told reporters he had nothing more to do with the issue after the meeting with Whitney.

“I’d now like to know exactly what the Prime Minister told Todd McClay about his meeting with Ken Whitney,” James Shaw said.

“Did the Prime Minister tell Minister McClay to expedite the meeting with the foreign trust industry? Did the Prime Minister tell Minister McClay to ditch the IRD’s impending review of the foreign trust sector?” he said.

Grant Robertson called on Key to be more open, given Key had initially not disclosed to journalists that Whitney was the member of the public who had approached him in 2014.

“There is no way Todd McClay would not have felt pressure from above. That’s shown by the impressive speed with which Ken Whitney and his lobby group got a meeting with the Minister,” he said.

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