Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in terms of revenue generation. This sector of the economy has seen a great deal of growth since the transfer of the Panama Canal Zone at the end of the twentieth century. The number of hotel rooms increased by more than ten-fold, from 1,400 in 1997 to more than 15,000 in 2013, while the number of annual visitors increased from 457,000 in 1999 to 1.4 million in 2011. The city's hotel occupancy rate has always been relatively high, reaching the second highest for any city outside the United States in 2008, after Perth, Australia, and followed by Dubai. However, hotel occupancy rates have dropped since 2009, probably due to the opening of many new luxury hotels. Several international hotel chains, such as Le Méridien, Radisson, and RIU, have opened or plan to open new hotels in the city, along with those previously operating under Marriott, Sheraton, InterContinental, and other foreign and local brands. The Trump Organization built the Trump Ocean Club, its first investment in Latin America, in 2006 and it is the tallest building in the city. In 2018 it was renamed The Bahia Grand Panama following falling occupancy rates associated with the declining brand value of the Trump name. Hilton Worldwide opened a Hilton Garden Inn in El Cangrejo, and in 2013, The Panamera, the second Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Latin America.
The city of Panama was founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila. The city was the starting point for expeditions that conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. It was a stopover point on one of the most important trade routes in the American continent, leading to the fairs of Nombre de Dios and Portobelo, through which passed most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas.
Other non-traditional sports in the country have had great importance such as the triathlon that has captured the attention of many athletes nationwide and the country has hosted international competitions. Flag football has also been growing in popularity in both men and women and with international participation in world of this discipline being among the best teams in the world, the sport was introduced by Americans residing in the Canal Zone for veterans and retirees who even had a festival called the Turkey Ball. Other popular sports are American football, rugby, hockey, softball and other amateur sports including skateboarding, BMX and surfing, because the many beaches of Panama such as Santa Catalina and Venao that have hosted events the likes of ISA World Surfing Games.
The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private. While offshore business entities are legal (see Offshore Magic Circle), reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.
A screenshot showed that authorities had forced all websites to delete content about the Panama Papers. Foreign websites such as WikiLeaks and China Digital Times are blocked from mainland China. On Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like social media website, censors deleted content about the Panama Paper. However, the name of Xi's brother-in-law got through, and Weibo users tried to circumvent them with less obvious language such as "brother-in-law", "Canal Papers" (for the Panama Canal), and so on. Despite the censorship, Weibo search ranking was topped by phrases seemingly related to the Panama Papers, such as "tax evasion", "document", "leak" and "Putin".
According to reporting by the African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), the company produces 60–90% of Sierra Leone's diamond exports, and in some months between 2012 and 2015 exported more than US$330 million in rough diamonds. Octea owes US$150 million in unpaid loans. Although government records show taxes paid by other diamond companies, none are listed for Octea.
Sergei Roldugin, a cellist with the St Petersburg orchestra who is the godfather of Putin's eldest daughter and who has been described as Putin's "best friend", appears prominently in the Panama Papers. According to the leaked papers, Roldugin acquired assets worth at least $100 million, including a 12.5% stake in Video International (Russia's largest television advertising firm), companies that own stock options for some of Russia's biggest companies and the rights to loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2008, a company controlled by Roldugin joined with several other offshore companies to help "another Putin insider" acquire control of Kamaz, Russia's largest truck manufacturer, and obtain investment from German carmaker Daimler AG, $250 million for 10% of Kamaz. Sandalwood, another company in which Roldugin and other insiders have an interest was issued lines of credit between 2009 and 2012 worth $800,000 by Russian Commercial Bank (RCB) in Cyprus, then a wholly owned subsidiary of VTB Bank, largely owned by the Russian state. Panama Papers documents indicate that Roldugin companies received several loans with no collateral, or at very low interest rates, or never repaid. In 2013, several shell companies linked to the brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg loaned worth about US$200 million to a company in Roldugin's network. The leaked documents do not show whether they were repaid. Shortly before the loan was granted, Arkady Rotenberg's company had been awarded the tender for the South Stream pipeline project, worth billions. Asked about his companies, Rodulgin said "I have to take a look and find out what I can say and what I can't", and that financial matters are "delicate".
^ MOVIN: an independent political movement based in Panama, focused on influencing and monitoring the independence, efficiency and transparency of government institutions and their management. See "Civil Society | Policy Areas | ERCAS – European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building". www.againstcorruption.eu. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016.
Panama is an important country for many reasons. Considered an isthmus (a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land), it became a land bridge approximately 2.8 million years ago connecting both the North America and South America continents. Over time this formation affected the biodiversity of the world enabling animals to migrate from north to south, changing the weather patterns across the world, even in Europe. The development of the isthmus created the Gulf Stream which gives definition to rainfall amounts, temperatures, tides, and climates for the region.
Ethnic groups in Panama include Mestizo people, who have a mix of European and native ancestry. Black Afro-Panamanians account for 15–20 percent of the population. Most Afro-Panamanians live on the Panama-Colón metropolitan area, the Darien Province, La Palma, and Bocas Del Toro. Neighborhoods in Panama City that have large black populations include: Curundu, El Chorrillo, Rio Abajo, San Joaquín, El Marañón, San Miguelito, and Santa Ana. Black Panamanians are descendants of African slaves brought to the Americas in the Atlantic Slave Trade. The second wave of black people brought to Panama came from the Caribbean during the construction of the Panama Canal. Panama also has a considerable Chinese and Indian (India) population brought to work on the canal during its construction. Most Chinese-Panamanians reside in the province of Chiriquí. Europeans and white-Panamanians are a minority in Panama. Panama is also home to a small Arab community that has mosques, practises Islam, as well as a Jewish community and many synagogues.
More than 500 banks registered nearly 15,600 shell companies with Mossack Fonseca, with HSBC and its affiliates accounting for more than 2,300 of the total. Dexia and J. Safra Sarasin of Luxembourg, Credit Suisse from the Channel Islands and the Swiss UBS each requested at least 500 offshore companies for their clients. An HSBC spokesman said, "The allegations are historical, in some cases dating back 20 years, predating our significant, well-publicized reforms implemented over the last few years."
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, former Emir of Qatar, is listed as owner of Afrodille S.A., which had a bank account in Luxembourg and shares in two South African companies. Al Thani also held a majority of the shares in Rienne S.A. and Yalis S.A., holding a term deposit with the Bank of China in Luxembourg. A relative owned 25% of these: Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar's former prime minister and foreign minister.
SZ also had concerns about security, not only for their source, the leaked documents, and their data, but also for the safety of some of their partners in the investigation living under corrupt regimes who might not want their money-handling practices made public. They stored the data in a room with limited physical access on air gapped computers that were never connected to the Internet. The Guardian also limited access to its journalists' project work area. To make it even harder to sabotage the computers or steal their drives, SZ journalists made them more tamper-evident by painting the screws holding the drives in place with glitter nail polish.
Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton condemned "outrageous tax havens and loopholes ... in Panama and elsewhere" at a Pennsylvania AFL–CIO event. Clinton added that "some of this behavior is clearly against the law, and everyone who violates the law anywhere should be held accountable", but it was "scandalous how much is actually legal". Clinton promised that "We are going after all these scams and make sure everyone pays their fair share here in America."
The Panamanian Public Forces are the national security forces of Panama. Panama is the second country in Latin America (the other being Costa Rica) to permanently abolish its standing army. Panama maintains armed police and security forces, and small air and maritime forces. They are tasked with law enforcement and can perform limited military actions.
Steinmetz, who has a personal fortune of $6 billion, supplies diamonds to Tiffany and DeBeers and is Sierra Leone's largest private investor. Yet, according to a detailed report in The Namibian, his Octea subsidiary owes, among other debts, property taxes of $700,000 to the city of Koidu. These unpaid taxes are discounted, according to mayor Saa Emerson Lamina, because Octea promised a 5% profit−sharing agreement, and payment 1% of its annual profit to a community development fund, but it did not do this either.