Panama 'categorically' rejects tax haven label
The Panamanian government "categorically" rejected Saturday French President Nicolas Sarkozy's "unfair" and "offensive" characterization of the country as a tax haven.
"Panama is not a tax haven," said Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.
"I assume this must have been a mistake and I hope that in the coming days, when his ministers teach him that Panama does not meet all the requirements for being a tax haven, that he (Sarkozy) corrects himself immediately."
Foreign Minister Roberto Henriquez added that the government "categorically rejects that our country is a tax haven," adding that the G20 was "looking for scapegoats to cover its financial mismanagement at the edge of a crisis."
On Friday, Sarkozy named 11 countries that fail to meet transparency standards, including Panama, Uruguay and Switzerland, warning that they will be "shunned by the international community."
Speaking at the close of the G20 summit in Cannes, he said the group would now publish an updated list of uncooperative tax havens at each of its summits.
Henriquez said the G20 assessment was made "before considering the recent progress made by Panama on fiscal transparency, with the signing of 12 double taxation treaties, most of them with G20 members," such as France.
"We are a renowned financial center with high levels of transparency," he added.
Over the past two years, Panama has signed double taxation agreements with Barbados, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Qatar and the United States.
The move removed the country from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development "gray list" of territories that have not yet substantially implemented tax transparency and information exchange standards.
"The irony is that Panama emerged from the OECD's gray list in July and the OECD members are almost the same as the G20," Henriquez said.
© 2011 AFP