Key figures resign from Panama’s tax evasion investigation

Added 8th August 2016

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Swiss anti-corruption expert Mark Pieth have resigned from an international committee investigating offshore tax evasion due to government interference, it has been revealed.

Key figures resign from Panama’s tax evasion investigation

The independent ‘panel of experts’ was set up in April by Panama’s government to help improve transparency in its offshore financial services industry following the Panama Papers scandal.

More than 11 million documents were leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, exposing how the rich and powerful around the world used offshore shell companies to avoid paying tax.

Lack of transparency

Stiglitz and Pieth joined a seven-member commission to investigate Panama’s notoriously opaque financial and legal system, but according to media reports both quit the group on Friday, saying Panama refused to guarantee the committee’s report would be made public.

The pair said they received a government letter last week reneging on its commitment to make the findings public.

"We can only infer that the government is facing pressure from those who are making profits from the current non-transparent financial system in Panama," Stiglitz told The BBC.

"We can only infer that the government is facing pressure from those who are making profits from the current non-transparent financial system in Panama."

In a statement, Panama's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “lamented” the departure of Stiglitz and Peith, blaming it on “internal differences”.

The department disputed Stiglitz claims, adding that members of the committee are “authorised to publish this report as they deem necessary”.

‘Media attack’

In a televised address in April, Panama’s president Juan Carlos Varela defended his nation against what he called a “media attack”, accusing wealthy countries of unfairly scapegoating him following Panama Papers leak.

Grey List of Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Varela rubbished claims that the nation has a track record of alleged dubious tax practices by pointing out that it was removed from the Grey List of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) earlier this year after taking “decisive steps in favour of transparency” which met international standards.

The FATF publishes a list three times a year identifying jurisdictions with weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. In January, Panama also agreed to reveal the identities of owners of shares in corporations registered to the country.

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Monira Matin

Senior Reporter

Monira joined International Adviser in March 2016 from Informa Global Markets where she worked as a eurobond reporter for over two years, covering fixed income markets. She has previously held a number of editorial positions covering politics, insurance and technology. Monira has a degree in Journalism and Economics from City University.

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