Sarkozy's new blacklist of "tax havens" provokes anger

10 November 2011

French president Nicolas Sarkozy nearly caused a diplomatic crisis last week when he called on eleven jurisdictions - including Switzerland - to be ostracised as "tax havens".

In a speech at the conclusion of the Cannes G20 summit, Sarkozy said the offending countries should be shunned by the international community, because they declined to exchange all tax information automatically with other countries. Automatic information exchange is a stated objective of the European Commission, though not the OECD Global Forum.

"Our message is clear - we do not want tax havens any longer", Sarkozy told the meeting. He said future G20 summits would issue a list of countries that fall short of "acceptable tax practices".

The eleven countries currently marked for "ostracism" (au ban) are Antigua, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Panama, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Vanuata, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Switzerland's State Secretariat for International Financial Matters reacted by issuing a statement that it already met OECD standards on tax information exchange.

Uruguay was more sensitive. Its foreign minister described Sarkozy's remarks as "unacceptable exaggerations and excesses", and recalled the country's ambassador in Paris. He also summoned France's charge d'affaires in Montevideo to explain his master's "misinformed" comments. The Uruguyan opposition party tried to make it a nationalist issue, accusing Uruguay's larger rivals Brazil and Argentina - both of them in the G20 - of putting Sarkozy up to his speech.

• Although even the OECD acknowledges that Switzerland has made much progress in providing information to foreign tax authorities, the country is still under huge pressure to relax its banking secrecy even further. This week Credit Suisse began writing to American owners of private bank accounts, warning them that it is about to disclose their identities to the US authorities. There are also persistent rumours that the Swiss government is negotiating a tax information exchange agreement with the USA.

 

Sources

Swissinfo

Swissinfo (2)

CBanque (in French)

Courrier International (in French)

Les Echos (in French)

EU Observer

Reuters (Credit Suisse development)

Reuters 2

Bloomberg

Romandie News (in French)

Figaro (in French)

 


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