Panama issues statement taking umbrage at being called a tax haven

Malta consul says Panamanian government “committed to the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and tax evasion”

No tax exiles please! We’re Panamanians
No tax exiles please! We’re Panamanians

The Republic of Panama has rejected claims that it is a tax haven, in a reaction to a report in The Times over the country’s secrecy laws for offshore companies.

The statement, communicated to the press by Malta consul John A. Gauci Maistre, said that Panama was “committed to the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and tax evasion.”

The reaction comes over news that energy minister Konrad Mizzi has admitted owning a Panamanian firm that is owned by Orion Trust, the trustees of his New Zealand trust Rotorua. Mizzi will be closing down the Panama offshore company.

The Panamanian government said that in April 2015 it had enacted three laws improving the fight against money laundering and tax evasion, namely:

  • Law 23, reinforcing policies of due diligence to identify the final beneficiary, aiming to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • Law 22, imposing sanctions on companies that do not keep their records of minutes and shareholders updated;
  • Law 18, which anticipates the entry into force of the regime that immobilizes bearer shares.

“This has been recognized by international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has removed Panama from its grey list after the successful update of its legal framework, focused on the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing and tax evasion,” the government said in its statement.

Panama is now in Phase II of a peer review by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the club of rich industrialized nations, for the measures taken over transparency and exchange of tax information.

The government said that Law 23 widened the circle of parties obliged to report, and introduces oversight for resident agents in legal Panamanian entities.

“Panama is not included in the list of ‘tax havens’ of the European Commission. It maintains a high commitment to international cooperation with member countries, with existing accords, and the signing and negotiation of tax agreements. To date, Panama has agreements that facilitate the exchange of tax information with more than 10 member countries of the European Union.”

Panama has 29 tax treaties.