Panama's banking system grows by more than $4bn in first half of 2016, but profits drop thanks to new red tape

 
Hayley Kirton
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The country found itself caught up in a tax tangle earlier this year (Source: Getty)

Panama's government has revealed assets held by its banking system had grown by over $4bn (£3.1bn) in the first half of the year alone, as the country continues to work towards more transparency in its financial services sector.

Total assets held within the National Banking System reached $99.6bn by the end of the first half of the year, up 4.6 per cent compared with the same period in 2015.

In particular, loan portfolios grew by 7.2 per cent and the securities market increased by 6.3 per cent. Raul Moreira, director of economic and social analysis of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, also reported total deposits of almost $73.4bn for the period, an increase of 5.3 per cent.

Read more: Advisers could pay fines far in excess of fees for enabling tax avoidance

However, while assets were on the up, profits decreased 2.4 per cent to around $615m, as government pushes for more red tape surrounding doubtful accounts and the introduction of best practices to place Panama on an even keel with its international counterparts.

Panama found itself in the spotlight earlier this year for all the wrong reasons, when the country's services industry became embroiled in a widespread tax scandal.

Back in April, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published its Panama Papers report, based on more than 11m leaked files, which spanned almost 40 years' worth of information, from Panama-headquartered law firm Mossack Fonseca.

Read more: Why "failure to prevent" will fail to prevent fraud and money laundering

The report identified more than 30,000 offshore companies relating to active clients in the UK, making the country Mossack Fonseca's third top user after Hong Kong and Switzerland. It also exposed the tax dealings of 140 politicians and public officials, including the late father of then Prime Minister David Cameron.

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