Why was New Zealand a Haven for Money Laundering?

01 July, 2021

New Zealand used to be a haven for money laundering, with overseas criminals exploiting the legislation using offshore accounts. This is due to a number of factors, the first of which being New Zealand’s reputation for being a non-corrupt country.

The downside of being the second least corrupt country in the world means people believe they can use that reputation as a smoke screen for their shady dealings. Another attractive aspect of New Zealand is how easy it is for one to start and register a private company. One can create a company overnight, all online and with only 1 director/shareholder. The cost of this process to incorporate a company is only NZD$105.


We also have company formation agents, who help to form companies for others – this service comes with a New Zealand address, registration and bank account. These new companies can also apply for GST and IRD (Inland Revenue Department) at the same time. In order to do all of this, there is no requirement of being a New Zealand citizen. So you can see how money launders flocked to our shores, enticed by the clean reputation and ease with which one can start a company. 


Trusts are another old favourite of money launderers. The basic idea of a trust is that someone who owns assets hands these assets over to another person, who in turn holds the assets for the benefit of a third party. The giver of the assets is called the Settlor, the person who holds the assets is a trustee and the person who gets the benefits of the Trust is called the Beneficiary. New Zealand tax law allows a person residing overseas to settle assets on a trust, for the benefit of foreign persons who are not living in New Zealand at all, and have a trustee here in the country. So if the settlor and the beneficiaries live overseas, the trust will not get taxed at all. 

Other countries do not have the same rules as New Zealand. Many other countries tax trusts on the basis of where the trustees live. This means there is a mismatch between New Zealand rules for taxing trusts, and other countries’ rules for taxing trusts and that mismatch creates a loophole that can be exploited. 

New Legislation

However, New Zealand is cracking down on money laundering by introducing stricter legislation ensuring that customer due diligence is conducted in vulnerable industries. By going through AML processes when onboarding new customers or when an individual or entity wishes to list property, the risks of money laundering and other financial crimes are mitigated.

First AML can help take away the stress and administrative burden of these strict regulations - get in touch today. 

About First AML

First AML simplifies the entire anti-money laundering onboarding and compliance process. Its SaaS platform, Source, stands out as a leading solution for organisations with complex or international onboarding needs. It provides streamlined collaboration and ensures uniformity in all AML practices.

First AML transforms an otherwise complex and manual process into one that is simple, cost-effective, and compliant for businesses. By delivering efficiency and time savings, it protects reputations and enables companies to stay on the right side of history in the face of global threats.

Keen to find out more? Book a demo today! No time for a long demo? No problem. See what Source by First AML can do for your business in 2 minutes – watch the short demo here.