Labour MEP to quiz RBS head of tax on bank’s involvement in Panama Papers tax avoidance scandal

A Labour MEP will grill RBS’s head of tax on the bank’s involvement in the Panama Papers tax avoidance scandal today.

Grant Jamieson’s appearance before the European Parliament economic and monetary affairs committee comes as more and more details emerge of tax dodging on an unprecedented scale, including that RBS, which is 73 per cent taxpayer owned, is a client of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. The papers show that Mossack Fonseca helps clients launder money, dodge sanctions and avoid tax.

The Panama Papers, an unprecedented leak of millions of documents, reveal the hidden wealth of some of the world’s most prominent global leaders and politicians, and the ways in which they exploit secretive offshore tax regimes.

Neena Gill MEP, member of the European Parliament special committee on tax, will ask Mr Jamieson:

“How do you justify working in tax havens when taxpayers who own you are struggling to pay their monthly bills, and who are suffering on a daily basis because of austerity measures and cuts to welfare benefits and local services?

“At the same time, how can you explain paying the top management team £5 million in bonuses – and £17.4m in future bonuses in shares despite recently announcing a loss of £2 billion for 2015?

“In 2015, reports suggested that RBS has 404 subsidiaries in tax havens. Specifically, last December it was reported RBS paid €23.8m to German prosecutors to settle a tax evasion enquiry into the Swiss banking arm of Coutts, a subsidiary of RBS, whose executive was recorded as saying: “Basically, tax authorities are your enemy.”

“Do you believe that banks should seek to exploit weaknesses in the tax system to gain an advantage? We are aware that you work very closely with the ‘Big 4’ auditing companies – what is your relationship with them, what is your budget for tax consultancy services and how has it evolved over the last couple of years?

“Finally, will you now be committing to greater transparency so that we don’t have to learn this information via leaks – and what is your position on fully public country-by-country reporting?”

Anneliese Dodds MEP, co-author of a recent EP report on tax that proposed a strengthening of efforts to clampdown on aggressive tax avoidance and tax evasion, adds:

“Yesterday’s revelations from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists confirm what we suspected all along: that tax havens are being used by some of the richest and most powerful people in the world to hide their wealth and avoid taxes.

“More than half of the client companies of the Panama Papers firm were registered with British administered jurisdictions, and many British banks, including RBS, have operated extensively in tax havens.

“David Cameron has many questions to answer today, not least, why his government blocked measures for transparency of ownership of trusts, what they have done to protect British-linked tax havens, and why they have not supported my call to stop tax havens, and companies using them, from accessing EU funds.”