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Panama to deepen talks with OECD after revelations

Friday, April 8, 2016 - 07:05

[PANAMA CITY] Panama will deepen talks with the OECD on sharing tax information in the wake of the "Panama Papers" scandal, its vice president told AFP in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

"We are going to establish technical-level dialogue between Panama and the OECD specifically on exchanging information," said Isabel De Saint Malo, who is also the country's foreign minister.

She said the talks were agreed earlier the same day in a "very good" conversation with the head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurria.

Panama is scrambling to avert being once again designated as a tax haven that facilitates money laundering, after the revelations of offshore dealings of many of the world's wealthy, famous and infamous in the so-called Panama Papers revelations.

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Those revelations came when millions of documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The OECD has led the charge accusing Panama of not doing enough to implement transparency and information-sharing standards.

Mr Gurria this week called the country "the last major holdout" in allowing funds to be hidden from authorities in other nations.

That prompted Ms De Saint Malo's deputy foreign minister, Luis Miguel Hincapie, to accuse Mr Gurria of being "unfair and discriminatory." In the interview with AFP, Ms De Saint Malo said also that Panama would improve information-sharing with France, which this week warned it was looking at putting Panama back on its blacklist of tax havens.

Just two months ago, Panama managed to get off an international "gray list" of countries not doing enough to battle money laundering and possible terrorist financing.

In the past couple of years it instituted a range of reforms to somewhat curb the anonymity enjoyed by offshore companies created by its banking and legal businesses.

However it has resisted fully implementing automatic reporting procedures set out by the OECD, saying it wanted modifications that would not undermine Panama's competitiveness as a financial hub.

Offshore entities, of themselves, are not illegal. But they can be used to launder money or hide assets from tax authorities in other countries.

AFP

For more coverage of the Panama Papers, visit bt.sg/panama_papers

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