* French bank chief in firing line over Panama Papers leaks
* Denies wrongdoing, stands by 2012 statements to Senate
* Faces new Senate hearing in French Senate in May (Adds comments by Oudea, senator after meeting)
By Brian Love
PARIS, April 12 (Reuters) - The head of Societe Generale on Tuesday rejected accusations he misled parliament about the French bank’s tax haven ties and agreed to answer Senate questions prompted by the Panama Papers revelations on the secretive world of offshore finance.
Chief Executive Frederic Oudea and his bank have been thrust to the fore of a controversy over usage of tax havens since an investigative news syndicate this month exposed leaked documents on the activities of Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The reports, based on 11.5 million leaked documents, put SocGen near the top of a global list of banks that created hundreds of thousands of shell companies in Panama and other offshore financial centres between 1977 and 2015 — with a total of 979 created by the French bank.
At issue are accusations by senators that Oudea misled them when he told a Senate committee in 2012 that his bank had closed operations in Panama and other tax havens identified as overly secretive or short of international transparency standards.
Following a meeting with the head of the Senate’s finance committee, Oudea told the Senate’s TV station, Public Senat: “I told her I answered with the utmost sincerity to all the questions of the Senate committee of inquiry in 2012.”
Senate Finance Committee President Michele Andre said Oudea would face a public Senate hearing in May to get to the root of the matter - a potentially abrasive session that the bank executive himself said he was willing to attend.
Oudea was summoned to meet Finance Minister Michel Sapin last week and tax police raided SocGen offices.
He and Didier Valet, head of corporate and investment banking, private banking and asset management, also met French unions on Monday to answer questions about the Panama Papers.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with the head of the Senate’s finance committee, a Senate statement said:
“The information revealed by the Panama Papers showed that several financial institutions made use of offshore companies, for their own account or for clients, that may have been used to hide certain assets or operations in so-called non-cooperative territories, possible for tax reasons.”
In an official response to the Panama Papers’ revelations about it, SocGen issued a statement on April 4 saying it had closed its establishments in Panama and other havens.
That was followed by an interview in which Oudea told French newspaper Le Figaro that SocGen abided by all the rules of the countries in which it operated.
The Senate has already slated a meeting of its cross-party steering committee for April 28 to broach the matter after accusations by politicians that Oudea misled them.
Their claims centre on a declaration in a Senate hearing on April 17, 2012 in which, according to an official transcript, Oudea said his bank had closed operations in locations named in an OECD “grey list” of bank centres deemed as lacking transparency.
The news syndicate behind the Panama Papers revelations says it will release more information in May but has so far not given detail of the precise years in which SocGen created or closed shell companies. Data released refer globally to the period 1977 to 2015 for a whole range of banks. panamapapers.icij.org/graphs/
$1 = 0.8755 euros Reporting by Brian Love; Additional reporting by Maya Nikolaeva; Editing by Mark Potter