Cunliffe’s Panama smear fails to stick as OIO declares “no laws were broken”

Yesterday David Cunliffe tried to smear a property owner; today his smear is in tatters.

The Overseas Investment Office says it is satisfied with the decision to allow a foreign company linked to the Panama Papers scandal to buy New Zealand farmland.

The Government agency, which vets all large or sensitive foreign investments in New Zealand, said it had no evidence that Panama-based company Ceol & Muir had breached any laws through its connection to Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.

“The Overseas Investment Office [OIO] is satisfied that due process was followed in assessing a consent application by Ceol & Muir,” the agency said this afternoon.

Millions of documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca earlier this month showed that the law firm played a key role in helping the world’s wealthy hide their money and assets in foreign trusts, some of which was linked to criminal activity.  

Ceol & Muir, which is owned by Italy-based Rafael Grozovsky and his Argentina-based brother Federico Grozovsky, was granted consent in February 2014 to purchase the 1317ha Onetai Station in Awakino, Taranaki for $6 million.

The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) reviewed its files after the scandal broke.

“While the OIO was conducting a search of its records, the OIO noted that Ceol & Muir’s registered office is at the Panama office of Mossack Fonseca,” the agency said.

The OIO has no evidence that would suggest that this connection with Mossack Fonseca is in breach of any laws.

Labour are so desperate to talk down New Zealand and try to build the meme that John Key is a money-laundering bankster who can’t be trusted. It isn’t working and they continue to sink lower in the polls.

Thankfully they appear to be as stupid as they are nasty.




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  • john Doe

    Labour have massive internal problems. If this was going to have wheels, little would have released it himself. Instead Cunliffe was given the job to look stupid.

    • OneTrack

      And it worked. Sorry Cunners, taken another one for the team, aye? Or thrown under the bus?

  • Keeping Stock

    The irony of David Cunliffe getting involved in a smear involving lawyers and dodgy secret trusts is just too rich.

  • George Carter

    It’s the laws of opposites. If Labour says its so it’s invariably not!

  • Second time around

    As noted in General Debate, it was the leak from their tannery that proves bad character, also the name of their law firm. Cunliffe said that Labour could discover it with only 5 minutes of Googling but the OIA couldn’t, and from now on we should expect Labour to do 5 minutes googling for every story they pimp. A factory leak is seldom a crime in NZ.

  • R&BAvenger

    Chalk up another fail. it isn’t stopping them, as mentioned in this morning’s General Debate. The opposition and Horrid have gone full retard. Never go full retard. Perhaps Shaw and Meteor Tuatara were emboldened by their recent 3.4% rise in the latest Colmar Brunton poll?

  • TriGeekNZ

    You know it’s really interesting looking at the Left and their tactics – if you can call them that.

    In my line of work we get reps come and talk to us about why’ve should use them and why their products are worth promoting to my clients. And I remember one time a rep from a reasonably large company came to see me. He spent almost all of the meeting rubbishing one of his competitors.

    In the end I had to tell him to stop, and if he wanted the meeting to continue he had to tell me why I should promote his company and their products.

    And it’s the same here – I can’t remember the last time there was a positive story in the news about any of the parties of the Left telling the electorate why we should vote for them and what the benefits would be.

    And they’re certainly not learning the lesson of 2014’where they spent so much time and energy trying to nobble National instead of promoting themselves – and look what happened.

    • Kiwiracer

      Exactly, it is hard to actually finger a piece of policy that they have released lately that is workable and positive for the country, in my circle of acquaintances(mostly double income homeowners, some with huge mortgages) not one is even remotely considering Labour, its the negativity and lack of, well, anything positive.

  • RogerB

    Heard Cunliffe on red radio this morning going on about the “good character” test that is applied by the OIO – perhaps the test should be applied to him ! As already noted below , the irony of Cunliffe taking the high ground over lawyers and trusts is hypocrisy writ large . Perhaps David could request Greg Presland to disclose all matters relating to his “secret trust” !

  • Big_Al

    The secret to successful sales is to “Never Rubbish your Competitors Product” This is the first thing a potential customer will not tolerate. To have a chance of succeeding you must explain why your product, or brand, is just as good or better than your competitors, together with the proof of this.
    The Labour Party just does not get or understand this and as a result, will always be “Flogging a Dead Horse”

    • one for the road

      Exactly, you identify your competitors weaknesses and issues and talk up your strengths on those points, never say negative stuff just promote the positive of your offering…. 101 of selling

  • Isherman

    I think an apology would probably be in order here for Cunliffes attempted smear, however given how well his last attempt at an apology worked out, it might be better to leave that to Little or Robbo eh?

    • Ann Johns

      The OIO is supposed to ensure that people of good character only buy NZ land. These two Argentinian brothers were convicted in 2011 of poisoning a local river with the toxic run off from their tanning factory. Hardly who we want buying our ‘sensitive’ land.

      • Isherman

        Yes, and to the extant that their own procedure was followed correctly, so there is no issue that I can see on the part of the OIO in handling the application. The reason is that they were provided with a Statutory Declaration, which they had no other reason to be suspicious of. If that declaration is effectively false testimony, that’s the firms wrongdoing, not the OIO’s and I’m not sure the OIO can blindly treat every one they receive as a pack of lies. Do they have to effectively become Interpol?
        If that declaration was found to be false, then I’m sure the OIO, and the government have the legal means of redress, in that event.

  • Cadwallader

    The fact that Cunnliffe was given the task of front-footing this rubbish produces two thoughts:
    1 it is accepted within the tiny caucus Labour now has as rubbish and Cunners was told “to walk the plank?” as a set-up to ensure he remains in the back country of the House or;
    2 Cunners wants some exposure, any exposure, in anticipation of dislodging the sad Angry one.
    If Labour gives Cunners the leadership again it would be an admission that they are truly devoid of any talent in their ranks and that they can’t seek fresh talent. If Cunners is the “NEW” leader would Jacinda be his running mate? At least she’d know how to zip-up a wetsuit for him for his “I’m a cool guy” pre-election snaps.

  • rua kenana

    About 20 years or so ago the land under discussion, Onetai Station on the Awakino-Marakopa Rd in North Taranaki/West King Country, was up for sale and I had a look at buying it. It was remote hilly, rough and generally unproductive country and not really an economic farm, even after the large subsidies the non-farmer PM Rob Muldoon had been putting into eroding NZ’s hill country. Onetai was then perhaps an extended lifestyle block if it were well looked after, which seemed unlikely in that area at that time.
    I don’t know what’s happened to Onetai in the years since, but am somewhat curious about the overseas interest.
    Interestingly also, that area is where the wellknown Maori chief Te Rauparaha originated, although his activities further south around Kapiti and Marlborough were better known.
    For the record, I’m unimpressed with the performance of the Overseas Investment Office. It should have been more accurately called the NZ Asset Sales Office, and I sometimes ponder on why it wasn’t.

    • In Vino Veritas

      Rua, the OIO doesn’t sell or divest anything, so I’d suggest cannot be called either of the things you are pondering. The OIO is a Government entity set up to undermine property rights in NZ and really shouldn’t exist at all.

      • rua kenana

        OIO only provides advice to govt. I thought everyone knew that.
        Property rights are an extensive and very interesting topic, with variety of views on just what the term means.
        Ronald Coase was given a Nobel prize for partial clarification, but still lots to be settled on the topic.
        But I think your personal views are clear enough from your post.

        • In Vino Veritas

          I’m not sure Coase’s work can be used in the instance of the OIO, as it essentially recommend whether a property owner gets to sell hisher property to a willing buyer. Am OIO decision impacts on the right of the seller to freely dispose of their property to the highest bidder. Coase’s theory was essentially built around an owner of property impinging (or potentially impinging on the rights of another owner and economic efficiency of their decisions in settling the matter. The OIO’s decisions have nothing to do with any owners and their rights. They prevent buyers from purchasing, to the detriment of the seller.

      • The OIO was set up to stop the economic invasion of NZ. It is failing miserably.

        Why is it when hordes of foreigners of completely different cultures and mantra of subjugate not assimilate hit the beaches with spears, clubs, guns or bombs to take the land of others it is war and it’s all hand to the barricades, but when they arrive armed with chequebooks to do exactly the same thing it is an abrogation of property rights and racism to mention it?

        • In Vino Veritas

          Wallace, my property is mine to do with as I please, not for the OIO to decide who I can, or who I cannot sell to. Nor should anyone else get to tell me either. If I want to sell property, and someone else has a gripe with the person I am selling it to, then the person with the gripe should stump up with a better bid. Or sod off and shut up.

    • Mike Webber

      Hill country is not unproductive. I owned and farmed Paparahia Station for many years, which is next door to Onetai and both are very productive farms.
      My father was half owner and farmed Onetai for many years and I worked there some of the time, it is a very good hill farm.

  • earthyundertones

    Newsflash: There is nothing inherently wrong, illegal or unjust about foreign trusts. They are perfectly normal and can be very useful in conducting overseas business. They can be used in some cases for hiding illegal money. However a bog standard criminal can use a mattress to hide their cash but we haven’t seen Labour damning the Bedpost client list.

    • RockinBob625

      That comment on Bedpost is gold and must surely find its way into Parliament somehow.

      Thank you for making me laugh today.

  • Kevin

    “Labour are so desperate to talk down New Zealand and try to build the meme that John Key is a money-laundering bankster who can’t be trusted. ”

    The irony is that these same people are willing to get in bed with a convicted fraudster jus because he has a beef with John Key.

  • Greg Presland

    Um you called this too soon Cameron. The OIO has reopened the application …