Wednesday, 11 May 2016

It's the Vibe

How Embarrassing

New Zealand has its own Dennis Denuto.  Trust us to imitate the Aussies.  Actually, our Dennis is female, so strictly we have our own Denyse Denuto.

For those of our readers who have never had the fun of watching the Australian comedy, The Castle, below is the classic courtroom scene in which lawyer, Dennis Denuto is attempting to argue his client's case against eminent domain. If you haven't seen it, take a look. Clearly Dennis has a dizzying intellect and a scintillating grasp of the law.

We now have our own version of Dennis, one Andrea Vance.

Andrea, as part of a collaborative gaggle of journalists from TVNZ and Radio NZ (supposedly competitors) who have been poring over hacked and leaked records from a Panamanian legal firm. This firm has set up blind trusts in New Zealand to hold assets in confidence for some of their clients. The said journalists have been determined to make an earth shattering scandal out of it all--namely, that New Zealand is being perceived globally as a tax haven.

Like Dennis Denuto, Andrea is well out of her depth.  Her grasp of tax law, international tax treaties, finance, cross border transactions, and money laundering appears breathtakingly naive and simplistic.

In a soft patsy interview from a TVNZ colleague on the national news, Andrea was sonorously asked, "Why should New Zealanders care about what you have managed to dig up"?  Yes, why should we?  She replied by firstly conceding on the question of legality.  What NZ has done is this matter is lawful.  This point must be conceded because its not just NZ, but the OECD regards our country's international tax administration as exemplary. That is, our systems and procedures in this matter have international recognition and approbation.

So, yes, why should New Zealanders care about this brouhaha?  Then came her Denyse Denuto moment as she provided an answer to the question she had scripted for the interviewer:
If you put aside the legal question there is, you know, a moral question and New Zealanders should be aware of this and should be asking, 'Is it OK for foreign businesses, foreign elite, foreign wealthy people to use New Zealand to circumvent their own system, their own tax authorities at home.' 
What precisely is the issue here, Counsellor?  Well, it's . . . it's . . . it's the Vibe of the thing, your Honour.

Embarrassing.  After all the hoopla, is that it?  It comes down to a moral question.  She is appealing to one of the most amoral citizenries on the planet on the grounds of morality.  Amazing--and underwhelming.

Actually, we can think of lots of well grounded moral reasons why people legitimately may choose to hide their assets in a blind overseas trust.  When you live in a country where justice turns on the bribe, where local officials are acquisitive of the assets of citizens to which they have taken a fancy, and where the eminent domain of a rapacious state can seize anything at any time and throw the "offender" into prison, or, worse, have him or her visited by apparatchik goons carrying Kalashnikovs.  Think of the track record of the Russian state, led by Vlad the Impaler, the most amoral individual in all the Russias, for example.  Think of the standover tactics sometimes used by Chinese officials against the staff of foreign companies.  Yes, blind international trusts can have their highly moral uses.

But, let's not pick nits.  Denyse is way smarter than the average bear.

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