Panama insists it is ‘committed’ to financial transparency

The statement comes as Europe’s five biggest economies propose a blacklist of tax havens such as Panama...

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Panama on Thursday stressed it is committed to bringing transparency to its financial sector damaged by the “Panama Papers” revelations, but urged dialogue with the OECD instead of being hit with curbs.

“Panama’s path to financial transparency is irreversible,” Isabel De Saint Malo, Panama's vice president and foreign minister, said in a statement.

“To that end, we willingly and actively support diplomatic dialogue and domestic reform to address this global challenge,” she said.

The statement was posted the same day as Europe’s five biggest economies – Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – proposed a blacklist of tax havens such as Panama, and urged the G20 group to end the secrecy of shell companies.

France, in particular, is pushing the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to take a tougher stand on Panama, pressuring it to adopt OECD reporting standards on the sharing of tax information.

Before the “Panama Papers” scandal burst on the scene, Panama had been resisting those OECD standards, fearing that they could erode the competitiveness of its financial sector.

But since the revelations, and the moves by countries to blacklist it as a tax haven, Panama has shown greater willingness to fall into line.

“As Panama has reiterated on multiple occasions to members of the OECD, we are fully and immediately committed to the implementation of bilateral automatic exchange of information consistent with the goals of the Common Reporting Standards,” De Saint Malo said.

"We are open and willing to engage in ongoing international dialogue with relevant technical teams to evaluate the specific multilateral mechanisms needed to implement these standards."

Separately, Panama’s government said Thursday it would increase oversight on law firms, one of which – Mossack Fonseca – is at the heart of the scandal after what it said was a hack of its digital archives.

“Since the (“Panama Papers”) publications, what is being brought in is a special supervision and this is on top of what we are already doing in the lawyer sector,” said Carlamara Sanchez, head of the government’s supervisory agency for non-financial companies.

“We will start new supervision of the law firm sector in the coming days,” she said, adding: “Mossack Fonseca is among the law firms to be supervised.”

Sanchez said “the law prevents me from giving specific information about what the supervision entails.”

The body she is in charge of was created last year to help curb money laundering and tax evasion activities.

Prosecutors from the organized crime unit conducted a 27-hour raid on Mossack Fonseca on Tuesday and Wednesday, but said that “right now” there was no evidence to take any sort of action against the firm.

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