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Germany calls for allies in war on tax havens

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Germany calls for allies in war on tax havens
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Panama City in a storm. Photos: DPA
08:23 CEST+02:00
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble on Sunday pleaded for countries to work together in the fight against tax cheats and money launderers by sharing national lists naming the beneficiaries of shell companies.

The proposal is part of a 10-point plan by Schäuble, detailed in the Handelsblatt and Die Welt newspapers, to clamp down on tax havens in the wake of the "Panama Papers" scandal which revealed how offshore companies are used to hide wealth.

"The registers should be drawn up at the national level and linked up," Schäuble told ARD television.

Countries who refused to share tax-related information should face penalties, he added. "We would put them on a blacklist and certain financial operations would no longer be possible with them."

Journalists and non-profit groups should also have access to the information, he said.

The European Union has already set out to work on a joint blacklist of such tax havens, according to Handelsblatt.

"We need total transparency," Schäuble told Bild newspaper, adding that he intended to present the plan in the coming week.

The minister told German media however that he was not calling for a ban on anonymous shell companies.

His action plan also moots ending Germany's statute of limitations for tax fraud. "Tax evaders should no longer be able to find shelter in the statute of limitations," the document says.

The head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria earlier this week called Panama "the last major holdout" allowing funds to be hidden from tax and law enforcement authorities.

The Central American nation has since said it was prepared to step up its exchange of information with the OECD.

The "Panama Papers" controversy has shone a global spotlight on tax evasion after 11.5 million documents were leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca detailing the offshore financial dealings of the rich and powerful. Many German banks were among the firm's clients.

The revelations have prompted a number of governments to launch tax fraud and money laundering probes.

SEE ALSO: 'At least 28 German banks' linked to Panamanian law firm

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