Lawmakers want ban on letterbox firms
PANA MEPs shore up measures to counter tax frauds
Maria Koleva, Brussels
20 October, 2017
The EP special committee investigating the 'Panama Papers' revelations on money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion (PANA) adopted on Wednesday evening its conclusions and recommendations in the final report. The voting session as a whole took more than four hours.
The sitting started with minute of silence for Daphne Caruana Galizia, the investigative journalist from Malta, who on Monday lost her life in an appalling car bomb explosion. Nine months ago, Caruana Galizia gave PANA MEPs evidence about her findings on the Panama Papers.
PANA lawmakers insisted on putting an end to the unanimity rule on tax decisions at EU level, a shift from secrecy to transparency, the establishment of an EU scrutiny mechanism on newly introduced harmful tax measures, a ban on letterbox companies, a shared list of tax havens and sanctions for those dealing with them.
MEPs voiced their concerns that there are several EU Member States featured in the Panama Papers and that there is lack of political will among some of them to advance on reforms and enforcement. Criticising strongly the secrecy encompassing the work of the Council’s Code of Conduct Group, they stressed that moves to counter tax evasion are often blocked by individual member countries.
Commenting the vote, Danish MEP Jeppe Kofod, co-rapporteur on the dossier and S&D Group vice-president, stated that after a year of investigations, interviews and research, the PANA committee’s work has shown that some Member States have bent – and in some cases outright broken – the rules, laws and treaties that make up the foundations of our European Union. We point directly towards the clear maladministration of EU legislation by Member States when it comes to the Anti-Money-Laundering Directive, he stressed, adding that “We will no longer accept that at least 8% of the world’s financial private wealth is held unaccounted for and offshore.”
According to the other co-rapporteur, Czech ALDE MEP Petr Jezek, the practices revealed by the Panama Papers were not inevitable. Our conclusions are clear, had the EU and its Member States played a more proactive role in the past, the problems revealed by the Panama Papers could have been avoided, he asserted. “They arose because EU legislation against money laundering and exchange of tax information was not properly implemented.”
MEPs also insisted for a common international definition of Offshore Financial Centre, tax haven, secrecy haven, non-cooperative tax jurisdiction and high-risk country, and urged the Council to set up by the end of 2017 a list of EU countries where non-cooperative tax jurisdictions exist. Regularly updated, standardised, interconnected and publicly accessible beneficial ownership registers were also on their recommendations’ list.