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Gordon Campbell on not crying foul, Argentina

Gordon Campbell on not crying foul, Argentina

So a couple of guys found to be criminally liable of environmental pollution in Argentina lodge an application with the Overseas Investment Office… in order to buy some prime New Zealand rural land. Seems that their factory back home had carelessly and/or intentionally discharged toxic waste into the Lujan river. Bummer. But that’s not what this application is about. This is about their desire to put $6 million on the table as the purchase price for Onetai Station in north Taranaki. Are these two men of good character asks the OIO sternly, them being the fierce guardians of the public interest and all. Pure as the driven snow, says their lawyer, who works for a firm called Mosseck Fonseca, based in Panama.

Right then, says the OIO. Unfortunately, the rules of lawyer/client privilege prevent us from knowing whether the lawyer mentioned that regrettable affair back home on the Lujan River. I’d like to think the OIO did their job and knew about it, though. Otherwise, New Zealand is really in trouble. I’m betting that the OIO looked at the names of the two applicants – Rafael and Federico Grozoksky – and said hey, these are Polish names, on guys from Argentina. Which means they’re probably Catholics, right? If so, that means there’s a distinct possibility that these are good church-going boys who love their Mama. Congratulations. They pass the good character test. And yes indeed, the OIO feels quite OK about them buying prime rural land in Taranaki– provided they promise to sin no more, and to go easy on the toxic chemical spills. Application approved!

For years, the OIO has been under fire for serving as a rubber stamp for foreigners buying up New Zealand land and resources. The CAFCA website has chapter and verse on the OIO’s sorry track record. In this case, the land purchase in 2014 was made by an entity called Ceol & Muir, jointly owned by Rafael Grozoksky (Italy) and Federico Grozoksky (Argentina.) As mentioned, the Grozokskys have a criminal conviction they may – or may not – have disclosed at the time. The ‘good character’ test is one thing. But as Labour’s David Cunliffe also pointed out on RNZ this morning, environmental concerns are also among the factors that the OIO is obliged, under its statute, to consider.

So there were two (related) strikes against these (related) applicants. The fact that the law firm acting on their behalf has since been revealed as central to a global web of tax avoidance schemes – for entities possibly engaged in criminal money laundering and terrorism financing – is not directly relevant, but certainly not helpful to their cause. Reportedly, the OIO is now reviewing its 2014 decision, and Prime Minister John Key has signaled that the resources that enable the OIO to do their job will now be’ beefed up.’

According to Key, this extra beef will enable the OIO to process some foreign investment applications even faster (!) and will also allow them to check whether the promises made by foreign investors at the time have, indeed, been kept. Evidently, sales have been going through that were conditional on such promises, but the OIO hasn’t had the resources (or the inclination?) to do the necessary follow ups. Sheesh.

Foreign Trusts? Trust Them

And in a related matter… It's now evident that the Prime Minister’s own lawyer Ken Whitney led a lobbying effort against the IRD’s plans to review the level of transparency required for the registration of foreign trusts in this country. The IRD had voiced fears of a reputational risk to New Zealand, given how this country was vulnerable to being used as a virtual tax haven. Subsequently, the plans for such a review disappeared from IRD’s work schedule.

Prime Minister John Key's personal lawyer lobbied both him and the-then Revenue Minister not to change New Zealand's foreign trust rules, arguing it could cause "severe damage" to the industry. But Mr Key says he personally had no involvement in the Inland Revenue Department (IRD)'s subsequent decision not to carry out such a review.

Again, sheesh. This is really shabby, banana republic kind of stuff. At the very least, it backs up the calls being made by the Greens, Labour and New Zealand First for a wide-ranging and truly independent review of (a) the rules and (b) the actual operations of foreign trusts. We need more, and better, than the ‘on paper’ review that has been entrusted to the government’s chosen tax expert, John Shewan. On one level of course, such incidents merely confirm the perception that this is a government run at the behest of insiders, for the benefit of insiders. And which is led by a PM carefee and/or careful not to know, about the details.

Keep Your Distance

The easy way to pigeonhole Colleen Green – via tracks like “TV” – is as a Los Angeles version of Courtney Barnett. When I first heard Green’s “Deeper Than Love” last year, it seemed creepily compelling… recently though, the lyrics suddenly snapped into focus:

Someday I hope for a lover to kill me
It's the closest I can hope to get to anybody
It's the closest I can come to being really free

Yikes. Gradually, the hovering synth and the metronomic beat start to feel as remorseless as any biological imperatives. A few questions seem to be on her mind :

Like, will I find a love that lasts long as my life?
Or will I die before ever becoming a wife?
And I'm wondering if I'm even the marrying kind
How can I give you my life, when I know you're just gonna die?

Basically….biology and technology are ruining the ability to commit. Distance (and distractions) seem safer, and preferable. Nothing, finally, can overcome her fear of intimacy ; which could be stronger, she suggests, than the fear of death or any urgings of desire. Deeper, certainly, than love could ever be :

And the only best friends
I ever made
Were people I knew I didn't have to see every day
The closest to true love
I ever came
Was with someone I kept many miles away
Cos I'm wary of eliminating distance
This could surely be the death of any romance
Cos I'm shitty and I'm lame and I'm dumb and I'm a bore
And once you get to know me you won't love me anymore
And that possibility worries me the most
Not harm or abuse or becoming a ghost
It's the closeness, the intimacy
I'm afraid, it might kill me

All of this comes wrapped in what sounds like a sample from “Tainted Love.” Enjoy.

If that seems like a downer heading into the weekend… well, in the name of general uplift, here’s a great Thai version of James Brown’s funk classic “I Got You (I Feel Good.) “

This is pretty cool, too. “Ding Ding Dong” totally rocks.

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