A Panama company, owned by a wealthy European shipping family, owns land in Nelson worth $2.3 million, Nelson Weekly has discovered.
Four plots of land on Walters Bluff, totalling almost 11 hectares, is owned by Syra International Financing Company SA.
The current government valuation on the land is $2,330,000. The company was set up by Panamanian law firm Icaza, González-Ruiz & Alemán.
It was another law firm, Mossack Fonseca, whose records were hacked and released as part of the Panama Papers scandal, which has highlighted how the world’s richest people dodge tax around the world. Four hundred journalists from around the world worked on the so-called Panama Papers, which showed that New Zealand was among the countries used by wealthy foreigners to avoid tax in their own country.
Syra is controlled by Swiss brothers Giovanni and Paolo Albertini, along with Giovanni’s son Alexandre. The family owns Marfin Management SAM which owns a shipping container company based in Monaco, on the Mediterranean.
According to Open Corporates, a UK-based website that collects information on companies around the world, Syra was founded on September 8, 1978 two days after two other firms also owned by the family were created – Chios International Financing Company SA and Andros International Financing Company SA.
Another company owned by the family, Compania Naviera Marfin SA [Marfin Shipping Company], was founded in 1947, also in Panama.
Local accountants and lawyers spoken to by Nelson Weekly say it is unusual to have a Panamanian company owning land in Nelson and that it is likely an effort in “tax minimization”.
The practice isn’t illegal but it is most likely done in an effort to use New Zealand’s tax system to avoid paying higher tax in their own country.