Opinion: Key's foreign trust link 'embarrassing'

Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong / Newshub.)
Prime Minister John Key (Simon Wong / Newshub.)

Hugely embarrassing, incredibly awkward, not a good look -- take your pick.

You've had the Prime Minister swearing black and blue that he's never had a foreign trust, but today in this the annual register of MPs' pecuniary interests he's declared a deposit with the Antipodes Trust Group Limited.

That is an Auckland law firm which, get this, sells itself as a "specialist provider of trustee and associated services for foreign trusts using New Zealand as their jurisdiction of choice".

It talks about how for foreigners, the trust will not be subject to New Zealand taxation of any kind, how reporting requirements are limited, how the beneficiaries don't need to be disclosed.

Now this is exactly what's been exposed in the Panama Papers, exactly what tax expert John Shewan has been brought into look at.

The Prime Minister's office has explained he doesn't have a trust, but that his lawyer, a guy called Ken Whitney, changed firms to Antipodes and took a deposit used to cover fees with him.

So, no foreign trust.

Let's be clear -- the Prime Minister hasn't done anything wrong here. But this release is incredibly bad timing, and while it is a technicality, the link to foreign trusts comes at an incredibly bad time.

But a very close link to the foreign trust industry -- very awkward, and very embarrassing.