France to put Panama back on list of tax havens: finance minister

France to put Panama back on list of tax havens: finance minister

Paris (AFP) - France will put Panama back on its list of countries that do not cooperate in efforts to track down tax dodgers, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Tuesday in the wake of the Panama Papers revelations.

"France has decided to put Panama back on the list of uncooperative countries, with all the consequences that will have for those who have transactions" with the central American state, Sapin told parliament.

Panama "wanted to have us believe that it could respect major international principles," Sapin said. "That's how it managed to avoid being on the blacklist of tax havens."

France removed Panama from the list of Uncooperative States and Territories (ETNC) in 2012 after the two countries reached a bilateral accord on fighting tax evasion.

In December the finance ministry warned that it was "very attentive" to changes in France's relations with Panama, faulting a poor response to requests for information.

The so-called Panama Papers, a massive leak of secret offshore financial dealings implicating world leaders and celebrities, has prompted several countries to open investigations.

Panama figured on a list of 30 tax havens last June when the European Commission unveiled its plan to combat tax evasion by multinationals.

But in February, the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Panama from its "grey list" of countries found lacking in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.

The task force congratulated Panama, along with Algeria and Angola, for "significant progress" made in those domains.

Contacted by AFP Tuesday, the FATF stood by its findings, but said that a fact-finding mission in Panama was scheduled for next year.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has taken a harder line on Panama.

"That country's strategy consists of making small bits of progress to obtain its removal from grey lists," Pascal Saint-Amans, Director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration, told AFP.

"It's the only major financial centre to refuse to implement an information-collecting system," he said.