President of Panama Stressed Panama's efforts to fight to Prevent Financial Corruption

By Reuters
April 19,2016
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(Reuters)--The President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, spoke at an investment seminar held at a downtown Tokyo hotel on Tuesday (April 19) stressing the country's efforts to fight for transparency in preventing financial corruption, as his country came under the spotlight in the wake of revelations arising from the "Panama Papers" controversy.

The leak of thousands of confidential documents from a Panamanian law firm earlier this month highlighted Panama's failure to cooperate in international efforts to clamp down on tax evasion by the rich and powerful.

Valera told reporters and other attendees of the seminar that the papers were not about Panama, but revealed a global problem.

"Panama papers is not about Panama, it's about a global problem that is tax evasion, and also the use of the financial systems and the legal systems for any illegal purposes," Valera said.

"I will say that today, Panama is one of the countries in Latin America, that the actual government is more involved in fighting for transparency at all levels. I'm not just talking about high-level corruption. We're talking about fighting corruption internally in the law enforcement agencies," he added.

Valera's comments come after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development chief Jose Angel Gurria said that Panama has decided to adopt international tax reporting standards.

"I can assure you that Panama correlate laws and regulatory framework against money laundering and the financing of terrorists to comply with the highest international standards," said Panama's finance minister, Dulcidio De La Guardia, who was also present at the seminar.

Members of the OECD, which helped establish the information exchange scheme, will visit Panama as early as this week to negotiate specific methods for sharing information.

The agreement on automatically swapping tax information, which around 100 countries have now joined, is due to come into effect in 2017.

Panama will also set up a committee of six to eight domestic and foreign experts within six months to make the Panamanian financial system more transparent, Valera told several Japanese media.