Panama puts Estonia on list of countries it claims discriminate it

The statement by the Panamanian embassy in Poland was sent to ERR News on Mar. 13, 2018. Source: ERR

Panama has put Estonia on a list of 20 countries it claims "apply discriminatory and restrictive measures" against the country and thereby damage its economy.

A statement by the political section of Panama's embassy in Poland reached ERR News on Tuesday that talks about 20 countries in Latin America, Europe, and Asia that it finds are currently discriminating it economically.

The list was put together by the the Panamanian ministries of economy and finance, foreign affairs and trade, and industry. It is "the first step" in an ongoing evaluation of potential countermeasures against countries that have taken a more restrictive approach in their relations with Panama following the financial and corporate scandals of the last few years, including the by now infamous Panama Papers, which also mentioned businesses in Estonia (ERR News reported).

Apart from Estonia, the list mentions ten more countries in Europe: Lithuania, Poland, Greece, France, Slovenia, Croatia, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, and Georgia.

ERR's Estonian news reported on Tuesday evening that so far the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hasn't received an official note. The director-general of the ministry's External Economic and Development Cooperation Department, Jüri Seilenthal, commented that it was "strange" that instead of an official channel Panama would turn to the media straight away.

Though he said he doesn't know the reasoning behind Panama's list, the step was likely connected to measures taken by European Union members following the Panama Papers scandal, where documents concerning the business of thousands of companies and individuals were leaked by an anonymous source in 2015.

Seilenthal further commented that the EU had put Panama on a blacklist of tax havens, but later removed the country from the list. Still, Panama's authorities might have seen this as humiliating. What exact steps the country could take against Estonia at this point isn't clear, Seilenthal said.

"It's possible that we were put on that list because we [recently] held the EU council presidency. At the same time it's strange that there are European countries on it that aren't EU members," he added.

The Panama Papers were leaked in 2015 and published starting April 2016. They included some 11.5 million documents of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and provided incriminating evidence of tax fraud committed by heads of state and government, politicians, businessmen, internationally known criminals, and also sports personalities. The documents cover a timespan from the 1970s to the present.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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