From the Chair

Suzanne Snively

Suzanne Snively
TINZ Chair

These last two and a bit months has seen the TINZ team working harder than usual, what with activities going on at the same time in New Zealand, Panama and London. Thanks to TINZ virtual office with the timely assistance of Ferdinand Balfoort, currently residing in London, and a Board member working there that week, it has been possible to work 24/7 to be sure that New Zealand was one of six countries to have fully committed to the Tackling Corruption Conference and the Anti-corruption Summit. TINZ was able to make an informed contribution there while at the same time analysing foreign trust and company law to prepare its submission to the Shewan Inquiry by 20 May.

This hard work has paid off as it means TINZ Board members have been well-prepared to answer the questions asked by everyone they meet to gain an understanding of the nature of these structures and why it matters to New Zealand to tidy them up.

Previous to 4 April, how many of us would have been aware that the former Brazilian Speaker of the House, since indicted for corruption, used foreign-based shell companies and trusts to “transfer” US$16 million outside Brazil? While the London Review of Books had already published evidence of this on 22 April, further evidence was provided through the 30 May release of the Panama Papers linking the speaker to the Brazilian Petrobas scandal. As well, there are connections with Malta, Kazakhstan, countries not normally regarded as our major trading partners.

Amongst other things, the discussion of what to do has highlighted the challenges in a modern society of getting the right balance between privacy and publicity. Transparency means that there is clear access to information by those with a right to it. When TINZ asks for a register of foreign trusts and companies, it is asking to for there to be policy developed to ensure New Zealand authorities have the ability to effectively meet their international obligations and commitments of sharing and collaborating with other jurisdictions in cases where there are illicit assets being transferred. It is most important for law and enforcement authorities to have access for the purposes of investigation.

This requires an accessible Beneficial Ownership Register. For example, the UK has recently introduced the Register of Persons with Significant Control (PSC Register). It provides for open access to any member of the public, unless there are certain conditions and a company advises the courts of its decision to refuse. The PSC register is also likely to be introduced in British Overseas Territories, including the Cayman Islands, in the near future.

A feature of the Register of Persons with Significant Control is that it looks at the matter of beneficial ownership, regardless of the form of legal persons with all layers of ownership investigated, to determine control. While this may seem unduly complex to the majority of us who own things directly, it is essential for the scoundrels of our world who deliberately use convoluted, complex, many-layered structures to hide their ill-gotten gains from sight.

While this dark side of humanity has been percolating, a fresh picture of a better future has been emerging.

Speaking in Wellington on 4 April, L’Oréal’s Vice President, Ethics noted that by using the principles of integrity, respect, courage and transparency, New Zealand corporates could….increase customers and business returns…”

And at David Cameron’s Anti-corruption Summit, New Zealand was represented and made a commitment to nominate a representative to the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre.

Finally, my previous “From the Chair” reported that the State Services Commissioner, Iain Rennie had joined up a number of central government agencies with TINZ Partner LGNZ to contribute funding so that TINZ could have a professional approach to its activities. Our website includes details of the position and the appointment process. TINZ Volunteer Board is pleased to be in a position to recruit some fresh legs to further boost our reach and effectiveness. Please circulate this news widely.

Suzanne Snively, Chair
Transparency International New Zealand Inc.

Actions

Recent Activity

TINZ applauds decline in foreign trusts
Government implementation of tougher disclosure requirements for foreign trusts have led to around 75% discontinuing or exiting New Zealand. 9 Jul, 2017

Public Sector Integrity Media Release
State Services Commission took a very positive step in addressing a key recommendation of TINZ's Integrity Plus 2013 New Zealand National Integrity System Assessment by advertising a role for Deputy Commissioner, Integrity, Ethics and Standards. 11 May, 2017

Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 TINZ media release
Transparency International 25 Jan, 2017