PM: Trust company link 'situation normal'

Prime Minister John Key (Richard Cooper / Newshub.)
Prime Minister John Key (Richard Cooper / Newshub.)

John Key says there's nothing to get excited about in regard to his declaration he made a deposit into a company which specialises in foreign trusts.

In what's perhaps a matter of bad timing, the Register of Pecuniary Interests was published yesterday -- in the same week the Prime Minister and the Government has been questioned significantly about the Panama Papers leak and its links to New Zealand.

Mr Key's entry detailed a short-term deposit to Antipodes Trust Group Limited which specialises in foreign trusts using New Zealand as their "jurisdiction of choice".

His long-term lawyer Ken Whitney moved across to Antipodes and took a deposit used to cover fees across with him.

Today, Mr Key said while the link could get some people "excited", he says nothing's changed.

"I've covered my affairs the entire time I've been Prime Minister exactly the same way. My lawyer's changed firms; that's the end of the matter.

"It wasn't embarrassing seven years ago, it's not embarrassing today."

Mr Whitney has been Mr Key's lawyer for more than 20 years, and has never dealt with Mossack Fonseca -- the firm in Panama where the 11.5 million documents came from.

"I don't deal with people unless they're highly ethical and they do things well. He's changed firms and that might get everyone else excited but from my point of view it is situation normal."

Foreign trusts are a legitimate business and aren't "the devil incarnated", Mr Key says.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters claimed Mr Key had been a "major advocate" for foreign trusts in New Zealand.

"He wanted to make us the Switzerland of the South Pacific."

The Green Party wants changes to the registers which would mean MPs not only have to disclose their trust, but also where it is based.

"New Zealanders need to have confidence that MPs are open and honest about their affairs, and that they're paying their fair share of taxes like ordinary Kiwis are," co-leader James Shaw says.

Changes would need to be made to the Standing Orders, which are being reviewed later this year.

Mr Shaw wants other parties to back the proposition.

Making the disclosure more transparent would discourage MPs to "abuse tax haven loopholes to maximise their incomes".

Mr Key said that change wouldn't bother him.

The Government this week appointed former PricewaterhouseCoopers John Shewan to conduct an independent review of the disclosure rules around trusts.

His appointment has been criticised by Opposition parties who believe the investigation has the potential for a whitewash.