Panama today said it is in talks with India for putting in place a bilateral tax information exchange agreement, amid furor over hundreds of names of Indians figuring in the ‘Panama Papers’.
However, the Latin American nation said it would not be able exchange information with India unless it comes through a judicial channel since there is no pact in place as of now.
“We are already in talks to begin a process of negotiating exchange of information agreement… We would begin DTAA/TIEA wih Japan, Germany and Brazil and of course India.
“This is something (which we) will be discussing tomorrow with the Ministry of External Affairs. It has been in pipeline for sometime and it is time to have second round of negotiation as soon as possible,” Maria Luisa Navarro, Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation, Panama, said here.
On the timeline to complete negotiations with India, she said “it depends” and cited the example of Columbia wherein her country took more than a year to complete the talks for an information exchange agreement.
“(We are in process of getting into an agreement) so that we can provide exchange of information (to India),” the visiting minister said.
Navarro said that Panama is a provider of a very small percentage of those companies that appear in documents that were released.
“I know there were around 500 Indian beneficial owners or related to corporate entities… But I am not sure how many of them used Panama as jurisdiction,” she noted.
She expressed confidence that nothing is expected to go wrong during the negotiations.
“We have already made public three negotiations…with Japan, Germany and Brazil. We will keep putting more in pipeline as soon as we receive requests and India has already manifested that request,” the Minister said.
Amid the furore, she also said that Panama has been “mislabelled many times as a tax haven”.
Panama imposes and collects tax, which goes up to as high as 35 per cent, she added.
Leaked documents of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed names of over 500 Indians including some well known names figure persons having association with firms in tax havens.
India has constituted a multi-agency group to continuously monitor information in the wake of Panama Papers that named hundreds of Indians including film actors and industrialists who have allegedly stashed money in offshore entities.
The multi-agency group will comprise various government agencies – the CBDT, FIU, FT&TR (Foreign Tax and Tax Research) and RBI.