The Sovereign Prince of Monaco is so concerned about the pernicious comparisons between Monaco and Liechtenstein that he’s gone to the trouble of issuing a press release, insisting that Monaco is ‘a sound financial centre which complies with international standards’. So if you were thinking it was some kind of dubious tax haven for racing drivers and supermodels, apparently you couldn’t be more wrong.
Liechtenstein has of course been in the news this week after the UK Treasury paid an informer from the tiny state £100,000 for a list of bank accounts illegally purloined from the state bank. It now plans to crack down on a number of potential tax-dodgers – just like the German government, which bought its own list from the informant a while ago (of course, today's statement has nothing to do with the pressure exerted by disgruntled German chancellor Angela Merkel when the pair met this week).
However, His Serene Highness highlights no fewer than eight reasons why it’s jolly unfair to suggest that Monaco is equally dodgy. For example: VAT, customs and banking rules in the same way as it does in France; ‘internal regulations’ make it impossible to set up fake companies, and it’s trying very hard indeed to combat money laundering. Apparently it collected €15.6m in tax last year from non-residents (it seems to think this is a lot, although it sounds to us a paltry sum – Monaco resident Philip Green would be embarrassed to spend this kind of money on his birthday party).
So why on earth are all these nasty people lumping Monaco and Liechtenstein together? Well, perhaps it’s because they’re two of only three countries worldwide (alongside Andorra) blacklisted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as ‘uncooperative tax havens’. So we can see where the ‘confusion’ might arise. Monaco claims that it has made ‘considerable efforts’ in recent years to comply with international standards – but strangely, unlike the other four countries on the seven-strong 2002 blacklist, it hasn’t yet been taken off the list as a result.
Prince Albert is quick to point out that discussions with the OECD ‘are still ongoing’ and insists that Monaco is keen to fall in line with the other major European financial centres. But for now, it remains on that tax haven blacklist, and a good thing too – what would all those Formula One drivers think if they had to move to Andorra?