Panama, shaken badly last year by the “Panama Papers” revelations, on Tuesday reacted angrily to its inclusion on a new European Union blacklist of tax havens.
“This is a regrettable decision,” President Juan Carlos Varela told reporters. “We feel this is an unfair measure,” he added.
The country's economy and finance minister, Dulcidio De La Guardia, said on Twitter: “I reject the arbitrary and discriminatory inclusion of Panama on the European Union tax haven lists.”
The EU earlier Tuesday unveiled its blacklist of 17 non-EU tax havens, which included Panama.
The leak of the “Panama Papers”, a massive amount of data from a prominent Panamanian law firm that helped the world's wealthy stash assets in offshore entities, led to numerous probes around the world.
France immediately put Panama on its own tax-haven blacklist after those revelations, and the EU started work on establishing a separate list. A follow-up leak of offshore havens called the “Paradise Papers” last month gave further impetus to the EU move.
The full list of non-cooperative tax havens adopted by EU ministers on Tuesday named: American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, Macau, the Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
No immediate EU sanctions
No EU sanctions were immediately being directed at those countries.
Some EU states believed the public shaming was punishment enough, but others — including France — wanted to see tough measures imposed, such as excluding the listed nations from the World Bank or the EU funding.
Panama passed a law in September 2016 allowing it take a range of steps against countries deemed to “engage in practices that discriminate or imply damage” to its economic interests.
While Panama has not yet applied the legislation, it permits tax, trade and migration measures on companies or individuals from the offending countries.
At the same time, Panama has made some reforms to make its financial system more transparent and to facilitate the exchange of tax information. Varela said his country had done “lots of work” to make sure it did not appear on any tax haven list but complained that the requirements to be met kept changing.
“Panama is not in any way a tax haven,” he asserted, adding that he would take the matter up to the “highest” diplomatic levels.