- We are committed to helping Botswana cross the red sea-France
- Botswana says they are compliant, rubbishes French claims
- Batswana cannot open bank accounts in the European Union-France
- French Ambassador says Botswana should cooperate to lift blacklisting
The French embassy has made a proposal to the Botswana government to address the blacklisting dispute, which arose as a result of Botswana being labeled as a ‘tax haven and non-cooperative country in tax matters’ by the European union.
On 5 December 2017, the Council of the EU adopted the first EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions on international tax compliance – dubbed the “blacklist” it comprised 17 jurisdictions outside the EU that are considered to be ‘non-cooperative in tax matters. Botswana was put under the grey list/watch list with 47 jurisdictions. These are countries currently not compliant with EU standards but have committed to change their tax rules.
The Botswana Gazette is informed that France has remained steadfast on their position on the matter and has moved a step further to make a proposal to the government of Botswana on how it may be rehabilitated from unfavourable classification which has resulted in Batswana being unable open bank accounts in the European union.
Botswana’s classification was confirmed by the French Ambassador Pierre Voillery in an interview with this publication. “It is true that we have made a proposal to the Botswana government, but I cannot go into details,”he revealed.
Botswana has however ignored the French overtures, according to sources. Voillery corroborated confirmed sources’ claims of the impasse, confirming that they “have not received a response from the government of Botswana but remain hopeful.”
Voillery acknowledged the French Government is “working hand in hand with the Botswana government to address the situation and to bring the matter to rest.”
“We are working hard to help Botswana and the banks to upgrade their laws on management and functionality in order to comply and to be at a good level for IMF, OECD and world bank,” the French diplomat disclosed.
Voillery declined to make comments on the Botswana’s angry comments to the French embassy saying he is aware of the Botswana’s position on the matter: “I am aware of the statement but would not want to make comments on it. However, you must note that we are not the only ones who spoke on that matter, the EU and the UK also expressed concern because at the end of the day it is the people of Botswana who are suffering,” he claimed in justifying the French governments poition..
The principal objective in blacklisting countries is to prevent funds from the EU’s overseas development and investment budget being moved through countries on the blacklist. These funds are allocated by the European Investment Bank (EIB), development financial institutions (DFIs) including the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), and other international financial institutions.
The EU process of adopting a common list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, which is central to determining whether a third country presents a high risk in relation to money-laundering, was initiated as part of efforts to further good tax governance. In 2016 a list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions (tax havens) was presented to the European Commission as an anti-tax-avoidance initiative.
“A three-step process was established for drawing up a common list of tax jurisdictions which do not meet some of the criteria identified as essential for not being considered a tax haven,” the study explains, adding that the criteria set out in the external strategy relate to three main aspects for tax:
Transparency: through compliance with the international standards on automatic exchange of information (AEOI) and exchange of information on request (EOIR), and checking if a jurisdiction has ratified the multilateral convention.
Fair Tax Competition: assessing the existence of harmful tax regimes, contrary to the Code of Conduct principles or the OECD’s Forum on Harmful Tax Practices and BEPS implementation: participation in the Inclusive Framework.
At the time of its blacklisting Botswana reacted angrily through a statement addressed to the 19th meeting of the African Caribbean Pacific –European Union, insisting that their structures are compliant with global regulatory standards and further accused France of “going against the spirit of cooperation.”
The immediate past Minister of Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse in January 2017 lashed out against France saying “Botswana strongly contests the blacklisting in view of her cooperation with the Global Forum on Transparency Exchange of Information or Tax Purposes.”
Seretse said Botswana has in all respects been transparent and has continually responded to the Global Forum fair taxation requirements with the objective of being transparent and compliant in the exchange of tax information at all levels. “ Our commitment in response to transparency and in exchange of information has been evidenced by various engagements of our treaty partners to renegotiate our existing Tax Treaties or Protocols to amend existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) in place (that were considered non-compliant),” said Seretse.
The former minister reminded France that the exercise of reviewing “our domestic tax and banking laws to meet international standards including the OECD requirements started as far back as 2010.” Botswana, Seretse disclosed, has worked on the deficiencies (including amending DTAAs) that she has with other countries that were not compliant. “We then requested for a Supplementary Report from the Global forum and the Report was discussed at the Global Forum Peer Review Group (PRG) meeting held in Malta in March 2014 where we succeeded and proceeded to Phase 2 of the Review. It should be noted that the PRG was chaired by a French national,” said Seretse.
It is, therefore, he argued, a great surprise that notwithstanding “all our efforts we find ourselves blacklisted.”