Iceland not only Nordic link to Panama ‘leak’
Some of the Nordic region’s biggest financial institutions, such as DNB and Nordea have been forced to respond to allegations they may have helped clients avoid tax, after the publication of millions of documents from a Panamanian law firm.
This follows earlier reports noting that Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugson has been identified in the documents has having an allegedly undeclared financial interest in his wife’s wealth.
In Norway, the country’s Financial Supervisory Authority, Finanstilsynet, has said that it wants to follow up on news that a subsidiary of DNB based in Luxembourg helped Norwegian customers set up companies in the Seychelles. Although the Luxembourg regulator would be primarily responsible for any oversight of a Luxembourg subsidiary, the Norwegian regulator said that its role included looking at the broader group of any Norwegian regulated bank.
In Sweden, Nordea posted a press release in response to local media publishing articles that suggest Nordea International Private Banking in Luxembourg “was portrayed as a provider of tax haven structures for its customers”.
“Due to what is asserted about Nordea, we want to make the following clarifications:
• Nordea follows all rules and regulations related to these issues. We do not accept to be used as a platform for tax evasion. Our tax advice policy and ethical standards are clear; we shall not encourage or facilitate tax schemes of our customers that are regarded as tax evasion. We help our customers to pay the tax they should.
• At the end of 2009, Nordea International Private Banking in Luxembourg started to take proactive measures beyond the rules and regulations and beyond standards in our industry. Not all customers liked this approach and consequently the number of customers having these structures has gradually been reduced since 2009. Furthermore with the new common reporting standard in place as of 1 January this year, customers’ holdings and income on their accounts will be automatically reported to the tax authorities.
• Off-shore structures can be used as a legal and administrative vehicle for some customers with very complex, international business. In these cases Nordea has a range of processes and controls to ensure that clients declare their account to the relevant tax authorities.
• For the vast majority of our customers we advise not to use offshore-companies, and we do not in any case accept structures that are non-transparent towards relevant tax authorities.”
However, Danish business daily Børsen reported that Nordea CEO Casper von Koskull has expressed regret that the relevant tax proceedures do not seem to have been put in place.
Swedish financial daily Dagens Industri notes that the Swedish Tax Agency has now stated it will be asking for access to the relevant documents to assess whether to take action on individual Swedish taxpayers.
The newspaper adds that the Agency also said that some of the information in the documents may already be known or be out of date. The country operates an amnesty process for taxpayers with previously hidden offshore assets. Some 10,000 Swedes have in recent years admitted holding offshore assets; in return they are not prosecuted, but offered a tax bill that goes back a maximum five years.
The publication of the so-called Panama Papers was coordinated globally through Sunday 3 April, and concerns information contained in some 11 million documents. InvestmentEurope featured the key points in the story in an earlier article (Panama ‘leak’ hits offshore world ).