S’pore is not a tax haven: George Yeo
It is a low-tax nation with no parallels to Liechtenstein
(SINGAPORE) Singapore said yesterday it is not a tax haven but a low-tax country and that there are no parallels between it and Liechtenstein, where rich Europeans have been dodging tax through secret bank accounts.
Singapore has strict bank secrecy laws and has been promoting itself as a rival financial centre to Hong Kong to manage money for rich local and foreign clients. This has prompted fears in Europe that it could become a refuge for money fleeing the continent.
‘Singapore is not a tax haven. We are a low-tax country but not a tax haven,’ Foreign Minister George Yeo told a joint news conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. ‘A situation which arose in Liechtenstein cannot happen here.’
Singapore is negotiating a free trade deal with the European Union but at the same time wants to avoid weakening its efforts to create a highly successful private banking centre, while European politicians have warned that Singapore’s refusal to soften bank secrecy could scupper the talks.
‘We’re an international financial centre so banking secrecy is very important. It is protected by law. But at the same time we do not condone drug money or terrorism money or money laundering – these are crimes,’ Mr Yeo said.
The comments come amid growing international pressure on Liechtenstein and other tax havens to lift the cloak of secrecy from banks as tax agencies across the globe widen probes into tax evasion involving accounts in the tiny European state.
Germany has been joined by a growing number of countries, including the United States, Britain and the Netherlands, in probing secret bank accounts used to hide money in Liechtenstein.
Germany‘s foreign minister, in Singapore for one day as part of an Asian tour, said yesterday that he has raised the subject of tax evasion with Singapore and that the issue had in the past led to heated debate in talks between the EU and Asean.
‘I’m not surprised that this topic is being watched here with the highest sensitivity,’ he said. — Reuters
Source: Business Times