Panama Papers leak sets off fireworks in Parliament

Prime Minister John Key
Prime Minister John Key

The much-awaited Panama Papers have gone public, with an online database on offshore trusts going live at 6am this morning.

It didn't take long for Inland Revenue to draw out details on the role played by New Zealand trusts.

There were fireworks in Parliament as the Panama Papers were finally made public.

And while explosions echoed in the debating chamber, there were no real bombs in the documents.

"Let me tell you something interesting," said Prime Minister John Key. "IRD have had a chance to look at the papers and the documentation."

The tax department's special team of investigators trawled through the vast database, telling Mr Key there are fewer than 200 Kiwi trusts.

"They've cross-referenced all of them, and not a single one is undisclosed in New Zealand," said Mr Key.

"John Key says the IRD has cleared us," said Labour Party leader Andrew Little. "I think he's talking about the OECD. No, the IRD."

A handful of Kiwis are named in the Panama Papers, including South Canterbury Finance boss Allan Hubbard and an Elvis impersonator from Tauranga, but mentions don't equate to guilt.

"This is about New Zealand's reputation and what we do," said Mr Little. "What we're doing isn't good."

The Greens agree, calling for a proper inquiry; instead, Mr Key launched a counter-attack.

"Ring Greenpeace, Amnesty and the Red Cross, because they're caught up in this, and he might to look behind him -- Mojo Mathers has a foreign trust," said Mr Key.

"It was a personal attack designed to deflect attention," said Greens co-leader James Shaw. "He isn't doing anything to close down the use of New Zealand as a tax haven."

So, how did New Zealand compare to others in the Panama Papers? These countries topped the list with the number of offshore entities:

1. Virgin Islands 2. Panama 3. Bahamas 4. Seychelles 5. Samoa 6. Niue

But New Zealand came in at number 21. Samoa and Niue's figures should worry the Government because they're awash with foreign entities -- Samoa with 13,418 foreign links and Niue with 9611.

While there was nothing particularly explosive in the documents, they've created weeks of discussion and debate and they will have an impact, with Mr Key signaling there will be changes.