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Pandora papers: Samoa defends its offshore industry, points to ‘key levers’ in bigger countries

Samoa flag

Apia, SAMOA — The financial regulator of Samoa, one of the nations implicated in the Pandora papers as a tax haven for wealthy individuals, has defended the country’s involvement in the offshore industry and pointed the finger at “larger economies” such as the UK and Singapore for their role in it.

“Samoa is a proud, law-abiding country that has suffered much due to its harsh colonial past and diabolical challenges that it now faces, such as climate change. Both calamities were brought on to us by larger countries that continue to enjoy much respect,” said Tuifaasisina Sieni Tualega-Voorwinden, the chief executive officer of the Samoa International Finance Authority.

Samoa’s involvement in the offshore industry was highlighted by the Pandora papers, which contained leaks of documents from Asiaciti, a company run by Australian businessman Graeme Briggs that offered access to superannuation schemes and creditor-controlled companies in Samoa, which enabled wealthy foreign clients to use legal loopholes to minimise or avoid tax.

In an email obtained in the leak, reported by the ABC, Asiaciti boasted that Briggs, who was Samoa’s honorary consul in Singapore for 25 years until 2016, had been responsible for “setting up of the structure and legislation of the Samoa offshore finance centre”. In another email, a Samoan regulator said Briggs was the “grandfather” of the offshore industry in the country.

Tuifaasisina disputed this, saying that Samoa’s offshore centre legislation was enacted in 1988 with the assistance of a UK consultant, after examining the legislations of other established offshore finance centres at the time and consulting with industry.

“We have not been able to ascertain exactly what Mr Briggs’ involvement was during that process,” she said. “Hence, Mr Briggs cannot be considered the main architect of Samoa’s offshore centre rules.”

Documents in the leak revealed that Briggs advertised Samoa as “an alternative to the British Virgin Islands and other Caribbean jurisdictions” for investors looking at offshore options.

Samoa’s prime minister did not respond to requests for comment.

Read more at The Guardian