Panamanian bank system is "animated" despite inclusion of the country on the EC blacklist

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  • Fri, 02/15/2019 - 16:42
Banca Panama
  • EFE

The Panamanian bank system is "animated" and will not be "affected" by the recent inclusion of Panama in a black list of tax havens of the European Commission (EC), said on Thursday to Acan-Efe the president of the main state bank of the country, Rolando de León.

"We are passing the announcement (of the EC) as if it were another piece of news, and it will not have any impact on the activity we are developing here in Panama", insisted the executive of the National Bank of Panama (BNP).

The European Commission published on Wednesday a new list of 22 countries or jurisdictions outside the EU bloc that are struggling insufficiently against money laundering and terrorist financing, including Panama, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

The inclusion in the list, which has yet to be approved within a month by the European Parliament and Council, does not imply sanctions against the countries mentioned, but the commission may require additional controls to its banks.

The banking center of Panama, an important financial center in the region, has almost a hundred national and foreign institutions and represents about 10% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

The European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová, acknowledged on Wednesday that there is reluctance among some European countries, including Spain and the United Kingdom, and does not believe that the list will get a qualified majority to be approved.

"We were very happy that several international governments have said that this list has no basis, that it was not elaborated with any really constructive criteria and that we did not pay attention to it", said De León.

"The most forceful was the government of the United States", the president of the BNP, an entity that performs some central bank functions, added to Acan-Efe, although it cannot issue banknotes since the legal currency in Panama is the US dollar.

After the announcement, the Panamanian government called its ambassador to the EU for consultations and denounced that the process of drawing up the list has been "opaque" and based on "outdated" information, as the country has undertaken in recent years "important advances" in terms of financial transparency.

Among those actions, he mentioned Law 23 -which is known as the "Anti-Blanking Law" and regulates certain non-financial activities such as casinos, real estate, free zones or law firms- and the jail penalty of tax evasion.

"We will not allow false accusations and attacks on our platform", said the vice president and chancellor, Isabel de Saint Malo, at a banking congress.

The Panamanian financial platform has been under the microscope of several international organizations for its supposed lack of transparency, especially after the scandal of the so-called Panama Papers in April 2016.

Panama was included in December 2017 in another black list prepared by the EU's Ministers of Economy and Finance, although it was excluded a month later, while remaining on the list of tax havens in France. 


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