Tax evasion 'is a global issue not a Panama issue,' says finance minister

Key Points
  • In the wake of a high-profile tax evasion scandal, Dulcidio De La Guardia said his country was combating tax evasion.
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In the wake of a high-profile tax evasion scandal, Panama's economy and finance minister said Thursday that the country was working with the international community to combat financial crime and tax evasion.

Dulcidio De La Guardia, Panama's minister of economy and finance, said the problem of tax evasion was not limited to his country.

Speaking to CNBC at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, he said: "It's a global issue, it's not a Panama issue... and we're trying to improve the tax and financial system in Panama and I think we've been successful so far.

De La Guardia added that Panama had "addressed all the issues related to transparency and financial crime."

Panama made global headlines in 2016 when a team of journalists from around the world published the "Panama Papers" — a tranche of more than 11.5 million encrypted internal documents from local law firm Mossack Fonseca. The documents implicated a number of heads of state in the setting up of "shell" companies to harbor billions of dollars. The scandal prompted world leaders to call for more measures to tackle tax evasion.

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De La Guardia has been finance minister in Panama since 2014. He said the economy was growing steadily and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

"The international community recognizes that Panama is a stable democracy and it is the fastest-growing country in Latin America," he said.

The minister said FDI flows reached 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 and the island continued "to attract very strong FDI from the developed world."

"We're very pleased with the economic development of Panama," he said.