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Key kept quiet on extent of shares

Published: 6:34PM Monday September 22, 2008 Source: ONE News

National leader John Key has made an embarrassing admission about how many Tranz Rail shares he owned while he was pushing for another firm to buy into the company.

The former merchant banker has admitted buying hundreds of thousands of dollars of shares in Tranz Rail, a company now owned by the government. 
The share register shows that on February 15, 2002 a trust owned by Key and his wife Bronagh bought 30,000 Tranz Rail shares, estimated to cost around $108,000. Four days later on Februray 19 the Trust bought another 20,000 shares worth around $72,000 - these are the shares ONE News has not previously been told about.

Five months later in July 2002 Key was elected to parliament and in the following months became National's associate transport spokesman. During this time he questioned Finance Minister Michael Cullen in writing, and in the House, about so called "secret" meetings between the government and Tranz Rail.

He did not reveal his shareholding.

Then on May 7, 2003 Key bought another 50,000 shares - this time under his own name - for an estimated $22,500.

A couple of weeks later he met with Rail America, which was considering a bid for Tranz Rail.

"I hope that the interest shown by Rail America will be picked up by others," he said at the time in his newsletter, but he still did not say he was a shareholder.

On June 10, 2003 Key sold his personal parcel of 50,000 shares for about $51,000, doubling his profit in just five weeks.

A day later Key intensely questions Cullen about the TranzRail deal at select committee.

At that hearing, Richard Prebble declared his own conflict as a director and shareholder of Mainfreight. John Key said nothing about his shareholding in Tranz Rail.

Two days later on June 13, 2003, Key's family trust sold its shares this time at a loss, recouping $48,000 of their original $108,000 investment.

On June 18, 2003 Key attacked the government over its plan to buy the rail tracks.

When spoken to by ONE News about the issue Key said he has does nothing wrong and claims the shares were sold before he made meaningful public statements about the sale of Tranz Rail.

"I don't ever believe I've traded shares for my own personal benefit since I've come into parliament," Key says.

It was put to him that he did benefit though, doubling his money on those particular shares.

"Yeah but I lost money on my overall position," he says.

For more on John Key's admissions to ONE News click here 

Rail buy-back

The government officially took back control of the rail network in July following months of negotiation - a decision Key has been critical of.

The government got 180 trains and over 4,000 wagons back. On the water, it got one of the Interisland ferries and leases for two others. It is also responsible for over 2,000 rail and ferry workers.

The rail network was privatised under National in 1993 and following the announcement of the buy back in May the National Party said the government should have sorted out its issues with Toll Holdings, rather than buying the company's assets.

When the buyback was confirmed National leader John Key was again critical saying the government paid too much for the rail asset.

But he said a National-led government will keep the rail operation and make the best of the deal.

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