Samoa’s International Finance Authority (SIFA) has issued a clarification statement following the recent distribution of 11.9 million leaked documents by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The leak exposed the secret offshore accounts of 35 world leaders, including current and former presidents, prime ministers, and heads of state as well as more than 100 billionaires, celebrities, and business leaders.
The news organisations of the ICIJ have described the document leak as “our most expansive exposé of financial secrecy yet, containing documents, images, emails and spreadsheets from 14 financial service companies”.
Samoa established SIFA in 2005 by legislation (Samoa International Finance Authority Act 2005) to monitor and supervise the conduct of international financial services provided within Samoa and to ensure Samoa remains a reputable and innovative international finance centre.
SIFA highlights in their press statement that many of the matters raised in the media reports are historical and go back to events that took place in the 1980s and 1990s, however, “There have been significant and appropriate regulatory developments since then”.
“Much of the media’s assertions have been around the use of Samoa’s entities or solutions. The implications in the media reports are that Samoa is being used for illegal activities; this is incorrect”.
SIFA asserts that Samoa meets the high international requirements and standards for Anti Money Laundering and counter-terrorist financing set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the effect of that is that, “it is very difficult, if not impossible, to channel illegal activities through Samoa”.
Bringing the controversy closer to home is that amongst the 14 finance companies whose reports have been leaked, is AsiaCiti Trust, an offshore financial services firm established by Australian Graeme Briggs in 1978 with a branch in Samoa since 1987. AsiaCiti was the first trust company to be licensed by the Samoa International Finance Authority (SIFA). AsiaCiti has also issued a statement regarding the pandora papers.
In relation to AsiaCiti Trust, SIFA says it is unfair and wrong to victimise Samoa by implicationas to the alleged activities widely reported in the media, when Asiaciti in fact has its head office in Singapore as well as offices in other jurisdictions such as Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Auckland and Panama City.
The SIFA statement is published in verbatim below:
The Pandora Papers release has put the spotlight on Samoa as an international financial centre.
Much of the media’s assertions has been around the use of Samoa’s entities or solutions. The implications in the media reports are that Samoa is being used for illegal activities; this is incorrect.
We ask all concerned to consider the following facts:
1. Much of the matters raised in the media reports are historical and go back to events that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. There have been significant and appropriate regulatory developments since then.
2. Samoa has signed up to tax transparency measures and regularly shares information
internationally with other countries for example, through the Common Reporting Standards. In fact, Samoa is rated Largely Compliant by the OECD Global Forum in the transparency of exchange of information for tax purposes.
3. Samoa meets the high international requirements and standards for Anti Money Laundering and counter-terrorist financing set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
4. The effect of the above is that it is very difficult (if not impossible) to channel illegal activities through Samoa.
5. The only remaining issue is the tax-free status currently given to entities registered with SIFA. Samoa is presently working diligently with the European Union to come up with a
viable and proper solution for Samoa.
6. It is unfair and wrong to victimise Samoa by implicationas to the alleged activities as widely
reported in the media, particularly when Asiaciti has its head office in Singapore and many other offices other than in Samoa.
7. Samoa, like any other country, needs investment and tax is a major factor in investment decisions. We are currently working on policy proposals for ideas on how Samoa’s tax system can be reformed to attract investment.
Despite assertions made in media reports internationally, most of Samoa’s clients come here for legitimate reasons (for the same reasons they legitimately go to countries such as UK and Singapore).
Their decisions are based on bona fide reasons (such as asset protection). These are the clients that we retain, and we believe that tax reforms will continue to achieve this result as well as continue to attract investment into Samoa.
As a State Owned Enterprise (SOE) SIFA was a Public Beneficial Body and recently approved by Cabinet Decision on the 27th of May 2020 as a Public Trading Body.
It’s operations are led by CEO Sieni Tualega-Voorwinden, a lawyer by profession with extensive experience in the sector having been with SIFA for over 10 years, six of them as SIFA’s ACEO for Registration and Legal.
Chaired by respected BDO Director Taimalie Ernest Betham its Board of Directors includes Taima’aiono Agnes Kerslake, Tufuga Fagaloa Tufuga and Patrick Rasmussen.