New Zealand haven for hot money

New Zealand haven for hot money

A flamboyant Malaysian financier linked to an international money-laundering probe has laid bare New Zealand’s surprising appeal as a destination for the ultra- rich to park their wealth, the Straits Times reports.

Family members of Mr Low Taek Jho, who is suspected by US officials of diverting money from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), are beneficiaries of New Zealand trusts holding US$265 million (S$375 million) in assets.

These include a Bombardier jet, a luxury Beverly Hills hotel and a penthouse in the Time Warner Centre in Manhattan, according to court documents.

The family is fighting the US Justice Department’s bid to seize the assets. Mr Low, better known as Jho Low, has said he provided consulting services to 1MDB that did not break any laws.

The case has shone a spotlight on the multibillion-dollar trust industry in New Zealand that allows foreigners to hold assets with minimal disclosure.

While Prime Minister Bill English’s government has committed to tightening rules around trusts and legislation, the opposition Labour Party wants it to do more to safeguard the image of a nation that tops global transparency rankings.

Labour is calling for a public register of assets and their beneficiaries, which could lead to an exodus from the industry as the mega-wealthy seek to protect their privacy.  PHOTO: Low (South China Morning Post)  READ MORE: http://www.straitstimes.com/world/spotlight-on-nz-as-hot-spot-for-ultra-rich-to-park-wealth

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