Thank you. My name is Alain Deneault. I am a researcher at the Chaire mondialisation, citoyenneté et démocratie of the Université du Québec in Montreal and I am also the author of the book Offshore: Paradis fiscaux et souveraineté criminelle.
My work tackles the issue of tax havens not only from the perspective of accounting, taxation, criminology or economy, but also from the global perspective of political thought, where all these areas come together. In my opinion, this type of work provides an opportunity to think through the precautions a legislator must take when dealing with a tax haven, a free port or a free zone, like Panama, which is a country of convenience.
From the references I used in my work and after reading tax experts like Grégoire Duhamel or Édouard Chambost, who are in favour of tax havens, I have come to the conclusion that Panama is a tax haven that allows ships to be registered at ridiculous rates because, around the world, free ports make it possible to lower maritime standards in terms of environmental protection, the right to work and taxation.
Panama is not only a tax haven in tax clemency, but also because corporate shareholders can remain anonymous and the owners of private foundations, where money laundering often takes place, remain unknown. Insurance companies can also be created in Panama and so on.
I would now like to stress that a number of criminologists will consider Panama as a hub for money laundering, linked to international drug trafficking, because of the Colon Free Zone. In his book Trafic et crimes en Afrique centrale dans les Caraïbes, Patrice Meyzonnier, the chief commissioner at the headquarters of France's judicial police, talks about a state involved in drug trafficking and in the laundering of a good chunk of the world's dirty money, with the Cayman Islands. He says that Panama plays a bridging role between the south and the north, from Colombia to the United States.
The criminal activity in the Colon Free Zone takes place mainly in the hotel industry, fictitious commercial spaces and fictitious rents. It is actually a whole economy of money laundering, corroborated by Marie-Christine Dupuis-Danon in another book, Finance criminelle : Comment le crime organisé blanchit l'argent sale. Marie-Christine Dupuis-Danon was the anti-money laundering advisor for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She tells us the following:
Drug traffickers capitalize on the benefits associated with free zones like the one near Colon in Panama. This zone actually fosters the movement of goods and cash, with little surveillance from the authorities. There are no fewer than 1,890 companies generating a total of $5 billion annually in re-export activities. By definition, there are no customs duties on the operations carried out in the Colon Free Zone. As a result, the authorities are not able to enforce the regulations that are in effect in the rest of the country, including the declaration of sums over $10,000. Drug traffickers buy goods and resell them for cash with a 20 to 30% discount to the dealers in the free port. So they deposit their pesos in banks in the free zone and transfer their funds to their regular accounts in Colombia.
Marie-Christine Dupuis-Danon also insists on the fact that, between Panama—