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Offshore laws ‘world class’

Sunday July 07, 2013 Written by Published in Economy

New Zealand politician Winston Peters has said he is satisfied legislation around the offshore tax industry has improved in the Cook Islands in recent years.

New Zealand-based Cook Islander William Taramai wrote in support of Nicky Hager’s talk titled ‘Why Cook Islands should stop being a tax haven’ in a letter to the editor, published in CI News on July 4.

In the same letter, he questioned head of the Financial Services Development Authority (FSDA) Jenner Davis’ knowledge of New Zealand’s ‘Winebox Inquiry’ in the 1990s. The Winebox Inquiry involved investigating claims of corruption and fraud in the Serious Fraud Office and Inland Revenue Department in New Zealand – where it was concluded the allegations were not supported. At the time, Peters campaigned against tax deals – some of which involved the Cook Islands.

Peters – who is the leader of the political party New Zealand First – said in a letter to CI News that can be found on page 6: “I have remained in close contact with the Cook Islands since (the Winebox Inquiry), and I note that ‘that was then and this is now’.”

Peters said legislation has since been improved.

“I have been advised that the Cook Islands has put considerable effort into putting in place world-class legislation that allows the Cook Islands to meet the requirements of ‘Anti-Money Laundering’ (AML) and ‘Know your Client’ (KYC) regulations.”

Davis has also responded to Taramai’s letter, and her reply can be found on page 6.

She said she is well aware of the Winebox Inquiry but that it is of little relevance to the Cooks.

“I’m well-versed in the details. The Winebox Inquiry reflects far more negatively on those in New Zealand than it does on the Cook Islands. The inquiry cost the New Zealand government $14 million to carry out and no tax for earlier years was recovered as a result,” she said.

“It is of no interest or consequence to the Cook Islands other than the negative publicity we’ve had to overcome as a result of unfair characterisations that obviously continue today.”

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