Peters’ Main Aim ‘Headlines at the Taxpayers’ Expense’

  • Bill Birch

Making headlines at the taxpayer's expense was Winton Peters' primary interest in the wine box affair, Sir William Birch, Minister of Finance and Minister of Revenue, said tonight.

"His allegations have cost the taxpayer $12m during the two-year Commission of Inquiry plus a further $4 million in extra legal fees outside the inquiry, plus the fees of Mr Peters' solicitor which were also substantially funded by the taxpayer.

"IRD told the Commission that the department had assessed eight wine-box corporates as owing more than $83 million in tax.

"But all of that tax would have been assessed in any case, without the expense of a Commission of Inquiry. Not one of Mr Peters' allegations has been proved. We have not gained one extra cent for the revenue by pursuing this case so far.

"In pursuit of an alleged $2 million debt to the taxpayer, Mr Peters has already spent $16 million, and now he wants to spend still more. With that kind of fiscal arithmetic, taxpayers should be thankful he's not Treasurer any more," he said.

The High Court said clearly that its declarations, in the words of the judgement, "are not, and are not intended to suggest, findings by this Court that there has been fraud". It was important not to lose sight of that statement, he said.

"The High court decision now requires a response from the IRD. I am advised by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue that his department is seeking legal advice from the Crown Law Office on its options.

"That includes whether to appeal, to clarify the law further, or whether the decision of the High Court simply extends the powers of the Commissioner in respect to cases like Magnum," Sir William said.