29 September 2016
The Overseas Investment Office (OIO) has issued a formal warning to Ceol & Muir and its owners, Argentinian brothers Rafael and Federico Grozovsky, for failing to provide complete and accurate information when they applied to buy Onetai Station in 2013.
“We have put Ceol & Muir on notice by giving them a formal warning about the need to provide us with complete and accurate information,” says Lesley Haines, Deputy Chief Executive of the OIO.
“We will take the warning into account in all future information that Ceol & Muir provides us, including during our ongoing monitoring of their consent.
“There were two issues with the information they provided us in their application: the ownership of Ceol & Muir and not telling us about prosecution proceedings in Argentina.
“However, we do not believe there is a need to take further action at this point. This is because while the application contained an inaccurate statement – that Ceol & Muir was a trustee for Grozovsky family interests – the OIO was not misled on the ultimate ownership and control of the investment.”
Ms Haines says the OIO was aware that the Grozovsky brothers had been charged for alleged pollution offences in Argentina when Ceol & Muir applied for consent.
“However, the brothers have not been found guilty of any criminal offences.
“We are monitoring closely the court proceedings in Argentina. If the Grozovsky brothers are found guilty, we will consider the outcome and they could be made to sell Onetai Station.
“We have also carried out a site inspection as part of monitoring the conditions of consent. Progress in some areas has been good, for instance, the removal of 2500 feral goats, but progress in other areas has been slower than expected.
“Ceol & Muir clearly understands that it has until 2020 to complete the development of Onetai Station. We will continue to monitor closely what’s happening on the farm.”
Ms Haines says the OIO fee increases that came into effect on 1 July 2016 are enabling the OIO to beef up its monitoring and enforcement, including carrying out site visits.
Ceol & Muir purchased Onetai Station in Awakino, north of Taranaki in 2014. The OIO investigated the company and its owners after the leaked Panama Papers showed a connection with Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which acted as an incorporation agent for Ceol & Muir.
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