Panama City is located at 30°10′28″N 85°39′52″W (30.174451, -85.664480) within the Florida Panhandle and along the Emerald Coast. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city limits encompass an area of 35.4 square miles (91.8 km2), of which 29.3 square miles (75.8 km2) is land and 6.2 square miles (16.0 km2), or 17.39%, is water.
For over 300 years, the Spanish ruled Panama. Struggles to gain control of many of the Central American countries continued for decades. In 1821, Panama gained independence from Spain only to join what was then Colombia later that same year. In 1846, a treaty between Colombia and the United States was signed, permitting the U.S. to construct a railway across the country.
Law firms play a central role in offshore financial operations. Mossack Fonseca is one of the biggest in its field and the biggest financial institutions refer customers to it. Its services to clients include incorporating and operating shell companies in friendly jurisdictions on their behalf. They can include creating "complex shell company structures" that, while legal, also allow the firm's clients "to operate behind an often impenetrable wall of secrecy". The leaked papers detail some of their intricate, multilevel, and multinational corporate structures. Mossack Fonseca has acted with global consultancy partners like Emirates Asset Management Ltd, Ryan Mohanlal Ltd, Sun Hedge Invest and Blue Capital Ltd on behalf of more than 300,000 companies, most of them registered in the British Overseas Territories.
The earliest discovered artifacts of indigenous peoples in Panama include Paleo-Indian projectile points. Later central Panama was home to some of the first pottery-making in the Americas, for example the cultures at Monagrillo, which date back to 2500–1700 BC. These evolved into significant populations best known through their spectacular burials (dating to c. 500–900 AD) at the Monagrillo archaeological site, and their beautiful Gran Coclé style polychrome pottery. The monumental monolithic sculptures at the Barriles (Chiriqui) site are also important traces of these ancient isthmian cultures.
Austria's financial market authority has announced that they will audit two Austrian banks that were mentioned in the Panama Papers – Raiffeisenbank International (RBI) and Hypo Vorarlberg [de]. It will be specifically examining whether the banks have complied with their obligation to prevent money laundering. Hypo Vorarlberg subsequently announced that while they have complied with all laws in the past, they are planning to retreat completely from the offshore sector.
Being from Argentina, I was interested in this documentary because our President was one of the many figures in Western politics mentioned in this scandal. However, as in the other cases mentioned on the movie, the movie barely makes a passing mention of the case and doesn't bother to explain it in detail. Instead of explaining, step by step, how the process of setting up an offshore company works, exactly what each politician mentioned was involved in, and what the evidence against them was (which could have helped bring transparency into this important issue), the movie wastes time (more than an hour to be precise) talking about the journalists involved, how their investigation took place, and describing their collaborative international process in combing through the evidence, in what feels like a self-congratulatory exercise. While in itself interesting, I believe me and most of the audience were more interested in the actual contents of the Panama Papers itself and not on the journalistic process which made it happen. The documentary, in my opinion, gives an undue weight on this aspect of the story. The second part, on which the arrests made in Panama are described, is more interesting, but this extends for only 20 minutes, before we are back to the journalistic side of the story again.
Panama was inhabited by indigenous tribes before Spanish colonists arrived in the 16th century. It broke away from Spain in 1821 and joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela. After Gran Colombia dissolved in 1831, Panama and Nueva Granada eventually became the Republic of Colombia. With the backing of the United States, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903, allowing the construction of the Panama Canal to be completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. The 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties led to the transfer of the Canal from the United States to Panama on December 31, 1999.
Official Chinese statistics show investment in British Overseas Territories acting as tax havens being much more significant than in other places: $44 billion invested in the Cayman Islands and $49 billion in the British Virgin Islands. Despite these figures "probably exclud[ing] the private investments of the many family members of the ruling elite who have channelled money through the BVI", both figures exceed Chinese investment in the United States and United Kingdom.
An example of undisturbed, unique culture in Panama is that of the Guna who are known for molas. Mola is the Guna word for blouse, but the term mola has come to mean the elaborate embroidered panels made by Guna women, that make up the front and back of a Guna woman's blouse. They are several layers of cloth, varying in color, that are loosely stitched together, made using a reverse appliqué process.
Former Sudanese President Ahmed al-Mirghani was a client of Mossack Fonseca also. Al-Mirghani lived in Egypt after the 1989 coup that ended his presidency and was active in the Democratic Unionist Party. Orange Star Corporation bought a long-term lease in a tony London neighborhood near Hyde Park for $600,000 the same year al-Mirghani created it, and at the time of his death held assets worth $2.72 million.
The Panamanian currency is officially the balboa, fixed at a rate of 1:1 with the United States dollar since Panamanian independence in 1903. In practice, Panama is dollarized: U.S. dollars are legal tender and used for all paper currency, and whilst Panama has its own coinage, U.S. coins are widely used. Because of the tie to US dollars, Panama has traditionally had low inflation. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Panama's inflation in 2006 was 2.0 percent as measured by a weighted Consumer Price Index.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, head of the African Union's panel on illicit financial flows, on April 9 called the leak "most welcome" and called on African nations to investigate the citizens of their nations who appear in the papers. His panel's 2015 report found that Africa loses $50 billion a year due to tax evasion and other illicit practices and its 50-year losses top a trillion dollars. Furthermore, he said, the Seychelles, an African nation, is the fourth most mentioned tax haven in the documents.
The group of documents was referred to as the "Panama Papers" because of the country that they were leaked from. However, the government of Panama has registered strong objections to the name, as it appears to put some blame or negative association on the country itself, despite its lack of involvement in the actions of Mossack Fonseca. Nonetheless, the nickname has persisted, although some media outlets that have covered the story have referred to as the "Mossack Fonseca Papers."
Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland's finance minister and the chairman of Gunnlaugsson's coalition partner, comes from one of Iceland's wealthiest families. He confirmed that he owned 33% of Falson & Co., a Seychelles shell company founded in 2005 to purchase real estate in Dubai. It was still active in 2009, when Benediktsson was already a member of parliament with financial disclosure requirements. He said he registered the company with tax authorities, and he was not aware that it was registered in the Seychelles. Minister of the Interior Ólöf Nordal and her husband had powers of attorney for Dooley Securities S.A., an offshore company located in Panama. She said that the company was founded for her husband but was never used, so she did not think she had to disclose it. Hrólfur Ölvisson, the managing director of Gunnlaugsson's Progressive Party, says the Mossack Fonseca companies that list his name have been inactive a very long time, and were legal.
The beaches and sunsets highlight the city's natural beauty with places to visit including St. Andrews State Park, Conservation Park, and Shell Island. Dolphin watching, golfing, and fishing are top activities, while sights to visit include Signal Hill Golf Course, Signal Hill Country Club, and Hombre Golf Club. Other notable sights to explore include Gulf World Marine Park and Pier Park.
In 2018, investigative media Bivol.bg accessed the Panama Papers under an agreement with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Later, they published a story about the offshore company Viafot which is attempting to acquire a key asset of Bulgaria's defense industry: the arms producer Dunarit. The Panama Papers show that Viafot is owned by Alexander Angelov who is the lawyer of media mogul Delyan Peevski. Other Bulgarian media had reported how all state institutions help Viafot acquire Dunarit through illegitimate means. However, no inquiry was opened by Bulgaria's General Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov.
An investigation by ICIJ partner The Namibian found that the imprisoned mafioso Vito Roberto Palazzolo shielded his finances from Italian, Namibian and South African authorities with shell companies in the British Virgin Islands set up by a German banker in Hong Kong, Wolf-Peter Berthold, which they also used to transfer control of Palazzolo's assets to his son.
US authorities say that Steinmetz paid Mamadie Touré $5.3 million for her help in obtaining the concession from her husband Lansana Conté, president of Guinea, shortly before he died. According to Global Witness, an offshore company belonging to Touré, Matinda, received a payment of $2.4 million from a company named Pentler Holdings. Several more payments were promised as well as 5% of BSGR shares in Simandou. Pentler owned 17.65% of BSGR Guinea.
"This is a unique opportunity to test the effectiveness of leaktivism", said Micah White, co-founder of Occupy, "... the Panama Papers are being dissected via an unprecedented collaboration between hundreds of highly credible international journalists who have been working secretly for a year. This is the global professionalization of leaktivism. The days of WikiLeaks amateurism are over."