Costa Rica: Offshore Business Sectors
The state banking monopoly ended in 1995 and by 2012 there were more than 200 financial institutions in Costa Rica, in addition to a rapidly growing 'offshore' banking sector. Banking matters are governed by law No 1644 of 1953 as amended by law No 7558 of 1995 (known as the Organic Law of the National Banking System).
Financial institutions in Costa Rica are regulated by the Central Bank, through the General Superintendant of Financial Entities (SUGEF). The revised legislation reduced the reserve liquidity requirements to 15% of the value of the balance sheet, prohibits loans to an individual customer which exceed 20% of a bank's capital and specifies that a bank's capital cannot be less than 9% of its loans.
Finance and credit companies that take deposits from the general public require a license from the central bank and must have a minimum capital of 300 million colons.
Strict banking secrecy laws are being eroded by a number of legislative decisions. Costa Rica became the first Central American country to sign the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax matters with the OECD. At the same time, in order to compy with new Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism legislation, the Costa Rican Financial Regulatory Agency – SUGEF – has decreed that all banks under its supervision update their client account information by asking account holders to provide complex personal and corporate data previously not required.
This general rule is qualified by an exchange of information agreement signed between the United States and Costa Rica.