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GOVERNMENT

Officials seek to distance themselves from MF

Temas:

The government categorically denied Tuesday that Panama is a country that is not cooperating in the fields of money laundering and tax evasion.

"It surprises us that countries like France place us on lists despite agreements to share information," said Deputy Foreign Minister Luis Miguel Hincapié, who spoke at a press conference along with ministers Alvaro Aléman (Presidency) and Dulcidio de la Guardia (Economics and finance), and Foreign Ministry advisor Gian Castillero.

They were reacting to the decision this morning by French Finance Minister Michel Sapin to place Panama on its list of non-cooperative states and territories in fiscal matters.

Hincapié will meet with the ambassador of France in Panama Wednesday.

Aléman said that the government will analyze possible actions, among which would be the application of retaliatory measures.

"Panama changed. We are promoting dramatic reforms that cannot be ignored by the international community," said Aléman.
Last year, Panama updated its legal framework to prevent money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The reforms covered the approval of seven new laws, including the regulation of non-financial sectors - such as the law firms - and the creation of a regime of custody of bearer shares. As a result of the legal changes, the country was removed from the grey list of Financial Action Task Force.

This week, however, an investigation has linked the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca with a vast number of prominent politicians in foreign countries, leading to allegations the firm assisted with the hiding of the proceeds of corruption. But Aleman said that the problems raised in the investigation are due to the practices of the law firm, and not of the country. 

"This is a report that speaks of documents of a firm of lawyers, not our financial services platform," said Aléman.

For his part, De la Guardia said that Panama was not a tax haven, noting that 75 percent of government revenues come from taxes of revenue generated from inside the country.

In addition, he noted Panama has signed agreements to avoid double taxation, which includes provisions for the exchange of tax information.

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