It has become a ritual, since the arrival to power of President Juan Carlos Varela, in July 2014. At every big drug bust in warm areas of Panama or on ships’ go- fast “that cross off the country, the press is invited. Under the crackling flashes of photographers, thousands of bricks of cocaine, marijuana and heroin, exhibited on the ground on huge wasteland outside the city, burned by police and customs.
The “Panama papers’ three-point
- Le Monde and 106 editors in 76 countries, coordinated by the International Consortium of investigative journalists (ICIJ), had access to a wealth of new information that cast a harsh light on the opaque world of offshore finance and tax havens.
- 11.5 million files from the archives of the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca, specialist domiciliation of offshore companies between 1977 and 2015. It’s the biggest leak of information never exploited by the media.
- “Panama papers” reveal that in addition to thousands of anonymous, many heads of state, billionaires, big names in sports, celebrities or personalities within the scope of international sanctions have resorted to mounting offshore to conceal their assets
These spectacular stagings are supposed to demonstrate the government’s determination to eradicate organized crime and money laundering in Panama, after years of dictatorship and corruption.
yet they contrast with the refusal of this small country of only 76 000 km², at the junction of Central America and South America, open to cooperation against fraud and tax evasion, as it urges the G20 (the twenty richest countries in the world).
more of 100,000 companies with offshore status of the famous International Business Corporation , totally opaque and tax-exempt, Panama is considered one of the major financial black holes of the planet. A nebula where does retrain money of crime and fraud.
Two years ago, the G20 leaders, the States States, the United Kingdom and France, as well as the headquarters of the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD), exert strong diplomatic pressure on the country, so he agrees to move to the automatic exchange of tax data in 2018, as have done other strongholds of bank secrecy.
This method of exchange, which is to be transmitted between States, systematically, all financial data on taxpayers (bank accounts abroad, interest income, company shares, etc.), according to standards developed by the OECD, is seen as the best way to identify fraud. It should replace the current method of exchange, “on demand”, that is to say, triggered at the request of third countries.
Now, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Singapore and almost all of the small tax havens Caribbean and Pacific (British Virgin islands, Samoa …) have capitulated and have committed to automatically exchange data. Panama, he persisted and became entangled, more concerned about the defense of his financial center by the public interest.
“Panama today is a “ free rider ” a stowaway in a world that normalizes. This can not go on. For the fight against fraud and tax evasion on, we need everyone on board, “ says bluntly Pascal Saint-Amans, the director of tax policy and administration center of OECD. Aside from Panama, only three other “irreducible”, Bahrain, Nauru and Vanuatu, refuse to commit to automatic exchange.
During an audit conducted in Panama in early March to assess the quality of the laws and practices of the country, experts commissioned by the OECD noted numerous faults … which insufficient progress to identify the true owners of offshore companies, missing balance sheets and tax treaty issues with India and Colombia.
the tension in recent weeks, is up several notches. A report pointing the contradictions between the political discourse of Panama and its toxic isolation strategy was presented by the OECD, the G20 finance ministers at their meeting on 26 and 27 February in Shanghai. Most importantly, an inventory was taken, country by country, on the current state of cooperation of Panama in the fight against tax fraud. The conclusions are, according to our information, bad. So for three years, Panama has received, in total, over a hundred requests for information on suspected tax situations, from member countries of the OECD.
Only the first group of ‘States, including Sweden, is satisfied with the answers. A second group, which contains the US and Spain, evokes mixed. A third group finally speaks, he results of “deeply negative” . Among them is France, which, according to our sources, sent 37 information requests and received 31 responses, many of which are unsatisfactory.
Soon measures retaliation
How far will the country to defend its financial lobby and especially its large law firms, as Mossack Fonseca and his great rival Morgan & amp; Morgan, held in their country, a monopoly on the registration of offshore companies? How long will the showdown with Panama?
The answer is political. It will depend retaliation that decide to adopt in the coming weeks, major G20 countries. They go to restore the famous black and gray lists of States and non-cooperative jurisdictions, once drawn up by the OECD, which had been suppressed in 2011 to no longer stigmatize, but to encourage countries to make efforts ? This is one of the options.
The response will also take in the attitude of Panama’s traditional allies, the United Kingdom and the United States. So far, they have always encouraged the country’s efforts to strengthen its arsenal of laws, particularly in the fight against money laundering, preferring to see the glass half full than half empty.
But the times are changing. Solicited by Le Monde Robert Stack, Assistant US Treasury Secretary, has this explicit statement: “We expect Panama to behave like him impose obligations of membership of the Global Forum [the OECD body that is verified the application of tax cooperation standards] … including in terms of transparency. “