POLITICO’s Pierre Briançon:
“The finance minister of France, Michel Sapin, asked Société Générale CEO Frédéric Oudéa to come and meet him on Tuesday night and said he ‘demanded’ an explanation on the French bank’s involvement in the set-up of Panama shell companies, he said Wednesday in a radio interview.
”I asked him to put everything on the table,’ Sapin said. ‘Did Société Générale or an affiliate open offshore accounts with the view of hiding money and avoiding taxes? That’s all that matters to me.’”
In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro the next day, the bank’s CEO Frédéric Oudéa said he “gave the minister all the information he wanted” and that his teams are “of course permanently available to regulators for all the verification they want.” He stated that SocGén does not hold any subsidiary in Panama or in any non-cooperative countries, but noted that creating an offshore structure “is not, in itself, illegal.” In the last three to six years, SocGén “verified, in an exhaustive manner, in every one of our subsidiaries, our clients’ motivations for holding such structures,” according to the CEO. This has been made in a transparent way for the national authorities involved, he said: “A person who wants to evade taxes today does not come to open an account at Société Générale!”