Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Panama looks to talks with France to get off tax haven list


tiamin rice

View of the building where Panama-based Mossack Fonseca law firm offices are placed in Panama City on April 3, 2016. A massive leak of 11.5 million tax documents on Sunday exposed the secret offshore dealings of aides to Russian president Vladimir Putin, world leaders and celebrities including Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. An investigation into the documents by more than 100 media groups, described as one of the largest such probes in history, revealed the hidden offshore dealings in the assets of around 140 political figures — including 12 current or former heads of states. AFP PHOTO / EDUARDO GRIMALDO / AFP / EDUARDO GRIMALDO

Panama said Tuesday it will hold talks with France in the coming days, after Paris confirmed the Central American country was back on its blacklist of tax havens because of the Panama Papers leak.

The discussions were to highlight progress Panama has made in boosting transparency and cooperation in tax matters, Panama’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

France’s economy ministry confirmed that it was following through with an April decree putting Panama back on its blacklist following the Panama Papers revelations. The country had previously been removed from the list in 2012.

The disclosures, which came from a massive data leak from a Panamanian law firm, showed how many of the world’s wealthy stashed assets in offshore companies shielded from tax scrutiny.

Panama’s president, Juan Carlos Varela, in November warned France of reprisals if his country was maintained on the blacklist.

He had vowed to announce the “diplomatic measures” in his New Year’s speech on Monday, but failed to follow through with his promise.

Panama insists that a series of bilateral tax agreements it has struck and an inquiry by international experts into its financial services sector show how serious it was in cleaning up its past image as a hotspot for shady financial dealings.

But French officials are not convinced. They demand standards that include automatic, multilateral sharing of tax information and more details in offshore company registers that name which individuals are their true beneficiaries.

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