Of the 500 French files, only 50 correspond to “offshore” companies domiciled in Panama. Almost two-thirds of requests for information relate to the British Virgin Islands.
Gérald Darmanin was in Panama earlier this week. It was the first time that a French minister had made an official visit to the country since the tax fraud scandal erupted in April 2016. Since that date, relations have not always been good between France and this Central American state.
This affair led France to re-register Panama on its blacklist of tax havens. Last year, his government took offense, assuring that the country had put “100% in accordance with international standards”. Its vice-president, Isabel de Saint Malo, had declared that she “Firmly rejected” the attitude of France, which refused for the moment to remove the country from its black list.
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Gérald Darmanin’s visit came after a change of government in May. The Minister of Action and Public Accounts traveled with a team from the tax administration to obtain information on certain files related to the “Panama papers” and to sign an exchange protocol. “If this document is respected, we will study the possibility of removing Panama from the French list of tax havens”, explains the minister.
500 French files
For three years, the tax audit teams have combed through the data revealed by the ICIJ, the international consortium of journalists, at the origin of the revelations, knowing that they contained 500 files related to France. Among the splashed French personalities, the daily “Le Monde” had identified Michel Platini, Jérôme Cahuzac, Patrick Balkany, the publisher Jacques Glénat or the designer Jean-Jacques Sempé. The trickiest thing is to be able to identify the beneficial owner of these “offshore” companies, generally hidden behind a nominee.
The tax authorities sent 500 requests for information, which do not relate only to Panama. Out of all these cases, only 50 relate to “offshore” companies domiciled in Panama, of which around 20 involve large amounts. The others are associated with a Panamanian firm that located the money in another tax haven. According to Bercy data, it is the British Virgin Islands that emerges as the preferred destination. The Caribbean archipelago accounts for almost two thirds of requests for information. Next come Seychelles (15% of requests) followed by Panama (8.5%).
“The General Directorate of Public Finance has made good progress on Panamanian issues as well as on others”, assures Gérald Darmanin. At present, the administration has notified adjustments for 10% of cases, representing an amount of 130 million euros. She lodged 15 criminal complaints for alleged tax evasion.