Panama’s vice-minister of finance turned the tables when asked whether her country is a tax haven at a conference in Switzerland.
Most of the money implicated in the so-called Panama Papers “wasn’t in Panama,” rather was placed in Swiss or U.K.-based banks, Eyda Varela de Chinchilla said Friday during the event in St. Gallen, Switzerland. She also rejected that her country’s success depends on irregular flows of money into the financial system.
A series of reports last month based on millions of documents leaked from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed how its lawyers worked with big banks including Switzerland’s Credit Suisse Group AG and UBS Group AG to create numerous offshore shell companies for world leaders, athletes and other rich clients.
The revelations led to the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and put British leader David Cameron on the defensive about his own family’s finances as he prepared to host a global conference on corruption, which wrapped up this week in London.
De Chinchilla also reiterated her country’s opposition to automatically sharing bank account information with tax authorities in other countries through the multilateral agreement negotiated by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development.
While Panama has agreements with individual countries to share such information, it would be “irresponsible” to sign up to a broader agreement, she said without elaborating.
Such measures have been embraced in principle by offshore locales including Switzerland, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where Mossack Fonseca incorporated most of its shell companies.