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Andorra to lift bank secrecy

The leader of Andorra has pledged to lift the tiny European principality's bank secrecy law, moving to end its reputation as a tax haven, the French president's office confirmed Thursday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The leader of Andorra has pledged to lift the tiny European principality's bank secrecy law, moving to end its reputation as a tax haven, the French president's office confirmed Thursday.

The Andorran government Web site says that Chief Minister Albert Pintat had signed a commitment to this effect in Paris with French government officials.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office confirmed that Andorra was now undertaking negotiations with the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, "to put in place a framework for exchanging fiscal information."

The president's office said France itself now wants to "rapidly negotiate" its own information exchange accord with Andorra.

Sarkozy, as president of France, is a "co-prince" of Andorra based on a system established in the 13th century. Andorra is a country of 64,000 people couched between France and Spain.

The OECD lists Andorra as an "uncooperative tax haven." It is expected to propose at the London summit of the Group of 20 leading industrial nations on April 2 a range of sanctions that states can take against such tax havens.

Andorra's declaration, signed Tuesday by Pintat, commits to having Andorra's Parliament approve the reform by Nov. 15, the Web site says.

In practical terms, Andorra would sign bilateral accords with other countries to allow exchange of information on bank accounts to aid investigators trying to sniff out tax-evading wealth.

Pintat's pledge is part of an Andorran policy aimed at "getting removed from the OECD list of tax havens," the Web site said.

The French president's office said Sarkozy had been pressing Angorra for months "to take the path of reform."