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Local authority declares Jamaica compliant with tax evasion regulations

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Seeking to prevent potential concerns in light of this week's global revelations through the so-called 'Panama Papers', the government entity that markets Jamaica as a place for international financial and business services said yesterday that the island is in compliance with "all international regulatory standards".

News articles emanating from some 11.5 million leaked documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have been shedding light on the offshore financial system used by the rich and powerful to hide their wealth.

The reports have resulted in several countries launching legal probes and the resignation of Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

So far, no Jamaican citizen or company has been implicated.

All the documents are expected to be released in full early next month.

Yesterday, the Jamaica International Financial Services Authority (JIFSA) said it was "understandable" that the events relating to the leaks "may cause concern and raise questions".

In line with global standards

But, according to the JIFSA, Jamaica has been operating in line with global standards in the push to make the country into an international financial services centre.

"We give the assurance that ... we have sought to ensure that our jurisdiction will comply with all the international regulatory standards with respect to transparency, due diligence, the exchange of information, and ongoing supervisory oversight," read a statement issued yesterday by the authority.

The authority explained that several adjustments were made to enhance tax transparency and it is in the process of doing more.

The authority said because of Jamaica's compliance with international regulations, the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes has allowed Jamaica "to defer signing up to automatic exchange of information for tax purposes until 2017".

"Our existing financial regulatory infrastructure, which will support our regime, is as good as or better than those of some premier Caribbean jurisdictions with well-developed international financial centres," the JIFSA said.

On Wednesday, Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce and agriculture, said the Andrew Holness administration was determined to enact two pieces of legislation to help Jamaica get a share of the US$7 trillion international financial services sector.

He stressed that Jamaica "will not, on any account, be a haven for tax dodgers (or) evasion of taxes".

The JIFSA said five other bills are being prepared, which, when enacted, will help establish the industry.

Using offshore accounts is not illegal, but the practice raises questions about tax evasion and avoidance.

Dozens of journalists worked on the Panama Papers, which have exposed the offshore dealings of 140 politicians from more than 150 countries across 21 tax havens.

Gunnlaugsson resigned on Tuesday over revelations that he owned an offshore company with his wife.