Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Rage over tax haven blacklisting by France

Published:Friday | December 6, 2019 | 12:18 AM
Bahamas Finance Minister Peter Turnquest.
Bahamas Finance Minister Peter Turnquest.


Finance Minister Peter Turnquest has expressed “disgust”over a decision made by France to place The Bahamas on its blacklist of tax havens for lack of cooperation.

Speaking on Wednesday, Turnquest, who is also deputy prime minister, confirmed that Paris had formally notified the Minnis administration of its decision earlier in the day.

Turnquest labelled the decision as “surreptitious and an affront” to international diplomatic norms and the relationship The Bahamas had sought to build with France.

He added that The Bahamas’ inclusion on France’s list of countries deemed non-cooperative in the fight against tax-related crimes stemmed from “the perception by the French authorities” that this nation “has not been responding to requests for information in a manner that is satisfactory to them”.

The finance minister said that an inter-governmental investigation had not turned up any French tax-information requests that remained outstanding or had not been dealt with, saying The Bahamas has “nothing on the record”.

He also criticised France’s failure to invoke the dispute-resolution process contained in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, which The Bahamas signed in late 2017 to facilitate tax-information exchange and cooperation.

“I have expressed to the French ambassador our disappointment, our total disgust with the way in which this has been done,” Turnquest said, adding that The Bahamas had been treated in a “disrespectful manner”.

The finance minister said that he intends to communicate that to the Global Forum, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the European Union.

“There is no point, Mr Speaker, in us engaging in these multilateral organisations if individual members are going to take unilateral action, particularly without dialogue, at the highest level. Yet they expect commitment from us at the highest political levels,” Turnquest said.

The latter point refers to the EU’s move to temporarily “blacklist” the Bahamas in early 2018.

Other countries blacklisted by France are Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, and the Seychelles.

France has been carrying out investigations into 500 offshore companies following the Panama Papers scandal three years ago that exposed illegal practices in the offshore finance industry.