Panama Papers: Onetai farm firm treasurer directed company in Scolari tax investigation
Ministers approved the sale of Taranaki's Onetai station to a Panamanian firm whose treasurer was also a director of a company that Portugal believed laundered money for former Brazilian and Portuguese national soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
The revelation comes as Labour land information spokesman David Cunliffe prepares to embarrass the Government over the sale of the station in Parliament on Tuesday, over a separate toxic leak claim.
Gustavo Daniel Chaves Mantaras was one of three Uruguayan directors and the treasurer of Ceol & Muir, a Panamanian company set up with the help of law firm Mossack Fonseca to purchase Onetai station in 2013.
British company office records show Mantaras was also a director of Chaterella Investors Limited, now renamed Inmax International.
Portuguese prosecutors believed Chaterella was used by Scolari – who managed Brazil's football team during its humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup – to hide millions of dollars from Portugal's tax authority.
Portugal invoked a mutual assistance treaty with the United States in May 2014 to apply for a Florida District court order seizing bank statements, signatures and other documents from a bank account held by Chaterella Investors with Credit Lyonnais in Miami.
The Portuguese government accused Scolari of "aggravated fraud and money laundering". Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Portuguese prosecutors dropped the criminal investigation last year after Scolari agreed to pay Portugal €3 million (NZ$4.9m) in backdated tax and interest payments.
Scolari denied any wrongdoing, according to an AFP report.
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) recommended in December 2013 that Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson and Associate Minister of Finance Jonathan Coleman approve the $6m sale of the Onetai station to Ceol & Muir.
OIO group manager Annelies McClure indicated on Friday that the OIO did not require "good character" checks of Mantaras or the two other Uruguayan officers of the Mossack Fonseca trust.
That was because it did not view them as "the individuals with control of Ceol & Muir in the proposed investment".
The OIO instead told ministers that Argentinian businessmen Rafael and Federico Grozovsky were the "ultimate owners" of Ceol & Muir.
"The OIO was advised on 20 November 2013 by Ceol & Muir's legal advisors that Rafael and Federico Grozovsky were the 100 per cent shareholders of Ceol & Muir Inc.
"This was verified by 'true and correct' statutory declarations, referencing the 20 November 2013 advice, that were signed by Rafael and Federico Grozovsky on 9 December 2013," McClure said.
One undated and unattributed diagram released to Stuff by the OIO following an appeal to the Ombudsman indicated the Grozovsky brothers were the "100 per cent shareholders".
However, another "wiring diagram", also undated and unattributed, appears to show a more complex structure. It indicated the Grozovsky brothers controlled Ceol & Muir through a power of attorney and were the "legal owners".
But it is also stated that additional unnamed members of the Grozovsky families also had a "beneficial interest" in the Panamanian company.
Cunliffe has alleged that Argentinian businessmen the Grozovsky brothers "were found 'criminally responsible'" in 2011 for polluting the Lujan river in Argentina.
"Court and companies office documents appear to show that the New Zealand Overseas Investment Office is not competently carrying out its good character test obligations," Cunliffe said.
"If it is true that a director of ... Ceol and Muir, was reportedly involved in international legal issues, it is a further nail in the coffin of the OIO's credibility and, sadly, New Zealand's international investment reputation," he said.