The release of 240,000 names by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) following the Panama Papers leak, has left many New Zealanders perplexed as to how they were implicated despite having no involvement in so-called “foreign trusts”.
The online database, created by the ICIJ, went live last week and allows users to search the content of the Panama Papers leak either by company, name, address or country. The database upload has since been met with a stream of stories from people who claim to have no knowledge or involvement in “foreign trusts”.
Five Dunedin addresses were included in the leak as the official addresses of trusts which are supposedly being used for tax evasion purposes. The address is listed by the beneficiary of the trust.
The address of local accounting firm Hannagan & Devereux was included in the papers which the company had previously occupied but since moved from in 2011.
The address – C/HANNAGAN & DEVEREUX; Moran Building, No 8 The Octagon, Dunedin 9016 – was listed as the official address for Thomas E. Granger and Deanna W. Granger, joint-shareholders in Accelonic Ltd, a company located in British Virgin Islands.
Accelonic Ltd, which has linked over 1000 names, has been reported as a continuation of a scam that began in Washington State sometime in the 1980s. Investors are reported to have originally believed they were investing in a Washington State real estate partnership, however the firm was sold on a number of times before eventually being incorporated into an offshore company that mined cobalt in Uganda, called Blue Earth Refineries Inc. Since the database was uploaded nearly 800 residents in the Washington State area have found their names to be included in the Panama Papers leak.
John Sneddon, a partner at Dunedin accounting firm Hannagan & Devereux, says the inclusion of their company as the address for a foreign trust is a “mystery”.
“No, we have never heard of the Grangers or Accelonic Ltd. We don’t do any “foreign trusts”. It’s a bit of a mystery how they linked our name to them,” says Mr Sneddon.
“Our address changed about 5 years ago as well so the address they listed is also incorrect.”
New Zealand has been thrust into the international spotlight after Prime Minister John Key was named personally by the unknown leaker of the controversial Panama Papers documents. New Zealand has been accused of being a “tax haven”, whereby foreigners are able to store their money untaxed through the use of “foreign trusts”. This has been disputed as New Zealand’s “foreign trusts” for tax purposes differs significantly from the way other so-called “tax havens” operate to allow users to avoid taxation.