Panama Papers made public

The next instalment of the Panama Papers will contain information about more than 200,000 companies and trusts in 21 alleged tax havens (File)
The next instalment of the Panama Papers will contain information about more than 200,000 companies and trusts in 21 alleged tax havens (File)

The Panama Papers have been made public in a searchable online database available for anyone to trawl through.

After a month of waiting, journalists now have access to the list of companies linked to Mossack Fonseca - the financial giant at the centre of the biggest data leak of our time.

The next instalment of the Panama Papers contains information about more than 200,000 companies and trusts in 21 alleged tax havens, including New Zealand.

It's expected to turn up the heat on the Government which is already under pressure from opposition parties that the laws around foreign trusts need work.

Some documents were obtained in advance by investigative journalist Nicky Hager and shared with New Zealand media yesterday, showing that in the past decade the number of trusts in New Zealand has exploded from 2000 to 11,000.

They also showed that Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm the documents were leaked from, set up an office in New Zealand in 2013. It told clients -- mainly from South America -- New Zealand's laws allow "for the speedy formation of appropriate mechanisms for wealth protection, inheritance and tax planning".

Mr Hager said the Panama Papers "absolutely conclusively" showed New Zealand is functioning as a tax haven, but Prime Minister John Key dismissed those claims, calling Mr Hager "the biggest conspiracy theorist out there".

Meanwhile, NZ First leader Winston Peters says the foreign trust industry would quit New Zealand if full transparency was enforced.

"The secret about these foreign trusts is the beneficiary is never named," he told RNZ.

"If there was full disclosure, the foreign trust regime would be out of this country tomorrow."

But Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand has a strong reputation for transparency.

"The OECD has four criteria for assessing whether a country has harmful tax practices, including making them a tax haven, and New Zealand doesn't meet any of them," says Mr Key.

Newshub./NZN

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