Paris (AFP) - France has removed Bermuda and Jersey from a list of states that are uncooperative in efforts to combat tax fraud, according to a finance ministry decree published Sunday.
The change took effect on January 1 under an accord "allowing the exchange of all necessary information and the application of tax legislation", according to the decree published in an official gazette.
The Socialist head of the French parliament's foreign affairs committee, Elisabeth Guigou, and the party's general rapporteur on budget issues, Christian Eckert, were quick to denounce the accord in a statement as "unjustified".
The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, which met in Jakarta in November, deemed the two states "largely compliant", stopping short of the top rating of "compliant".
The forum, under the aegis of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, rates jurisdictions on how well they comply with rules on tax transparency.
At the instigation of many advanced countries, the Paris-based OECD has spearheaded a clampdown on tax evasion and the concealment of illicit funds.
The movement to scrap banking secrecy policies in Liechtenstein and other well-known "tax havens", such as neighbouring Switzerland, arose after the financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent eurozone debt crisis, as cash-strapped countries began going more aggressively after tax evaders and the banks that helped them.
French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici defended the decision in favour of Bermuda and Jersey as "objective".
"The administration asks a certain number of territories deemed uncooperative to show a certain amount of progress," he said on French radio. "We have had these discussions with Jersey and other islands. Some have not met our criteria, but these two territories have."
He added: "It's not a definitive thing, it doesn't mean high marks on everything."
Still on the list of non-compliant countries or territories, which is updated yearly, are the British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Montserrat, Bostwana, Guatemala, Nauru, the Marshall Islands and Niue.