Diplomatic bid to salvage NZ's reputation

Last updated 11:00 07/06/2012

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New Zealand has launched a diplomatic effort to get the country restored to a prestigious European Union banking and corporate "white list" after it was struck off for having weak money laundering and counter terrorist financing laws.

The Russian Federation was also removed, but because of corruption.

Being struck off the white list means that banks and institutions in the EU "will not be entitled any more to make simplified research for banks and financial institutions registered in New Zealand and Russia."

It also means European institutions can no longer "accept and acknowledge" customer identification and analysis" performed in New Zealand.

The EU never formally announced why it removed New Zealand but EU member state Latvia publicly named New Zealand in a letter to Fairfax Media.

Latvia said the action followed revelations over how shell companies registered here had become intimately linked with east European and Russian corruption.

This followed news that Tormex Ltd, of Queen Street, Auckland, washed US$680 million (NZ$883m) through a Latvian bank account - with no explanation of where the money came from or went. A multinational reporting investigation pointed to Russian Mafia connections.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Murray McCully said since being struck off the white list, the government had been in contact with the EU diplomats in Wellington and with EU financial authorities in Brussels.

New Zealand diplomats will deal with EU authorities and member states "to ensure New Zealand's efforts to address any [anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing law] deficiencies are appropriately recognised."

New Zealand will also take up the issue at a meeting later this month in Rome of the Financial Action Task Force, an enforcement and monitoring arm of the Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"New Zealand representatives at the (meeting) will emphasise the fact that New Zealand's implementation of anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism legislation will come into full effect in June 2013," the spokeswoman said.

Latvia's Deputy State Secretary on financial policy issues in the Ministry of Finance, Arina Andreicika, said her country had acted against New Zealand after receiving a report from the EU's Committee on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing which said New Zealand no longer had comparable money laundering and terrorist financing prevention laws to the EU.

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- Fairfax Media

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