Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli was elected to succeed Martin Torrijos with a landslide victory in the May 2009 presidential election. Martinelli's business credentials drew voters worried by slowing growth due to the 2008 financial crisis.[45] Standing for the four-party opposition Alliance for Change, Martinelli gained 60 percent of the vote, against 37 percent for the candidate of the governing left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party.
Spanish is the official and dominant language. The Spanish spoken in Panama is known as Panamanian Spanish. About 93 percent of the population speak Spanish as their first language. Many citizens who hold jobs at international levels, or at business corporations, speak both English and Spanish. Native languages, such as Ngäbere, are spoken throughout the country, mostly in their native territories. Over 400,000 Panamanians keep their native languages and customs.[75] Some new statistics show that as second language, English is spoken by 10 percent, French by 4 percent and Arabic by 1 percent.[76]
In 2008–2009, the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) and its owner Beny Steinmetz paid just $165 million for the mining rights to the northern portion of Simandou mine, located in the Nzérékoré region of Guinea's interior. Soon after, he sold 51 percent of the rights to Vale for $2.5 billion. Rio Tinto, which had previously held the concession, had invested $450 million into infrastructure at the site.[458] Global Witness says BSGR in fact paid nothing for the rights, and the $165 million represents BSGR's self-reported investment in improvements at the site. It adds that either way BSGR's profit exceeded the national budget of Guinea.[459]

Central Bank of Cyprus officially declared: "With regard to press reports citing leaked documents, known as the Panama Papers, the Central Bank of Cyprus announces that it is assessing the information to the extent that it may concern the Cypriot banking system and taking, where necessary, appropriate action."[180] A Cypriot online paper said "The Cyprus link stems from the fact that Fonseca runs an office in Cyprus and, more specifically, in Limassol. In a chart, the leaks name Cyprus as a tax haven (countries that offer little or no tax), although it has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, the same as Ireland."[180]

From 1903 to 1968, Panama was a constitutional democracy dominated by a commercially oriented oligarchy. During the 1950s, the Panamanian military began to challenge the oligarchy's political hegemony. The early 1960s saw also the beginning of sustained pressure in Panama for the renegotiation of the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, including riots that broke out in early 1964, resulting in widespread looting and dozens of deaths, and the evacuation of the American embassy.[26]
On April 8, President Varela denounced France's proposal to return Panama to a list of countries that did not cooperate with information exchange.[133] Minister of the Presidency Alvaro Alemán categorically denied that Panama is a tax haven, and said the country would not be a scapegoat.[134] Alemán said that talks with the French ambassador to Panama had begun.[134]
The Panama Papers confirmed that the politician Stavros Papastavrou, who was advisor of former Prime Ministers Kostas Karamanlis and Antonis Samaras, had been a member of the council of the Panamanian foundations, Green Shamrock Foundation and Diman Foundation, from 2005 to 2014. In 2006, he became deputy chairman of the Aisios Foundation, that still exists today. However, Papstavrou resigned from the Aisios Foundation in 2012.[193]
Former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, who spearheaded a crackdown on tax fraud while in office, was a client of Mossack Fonseca and through them owned a Seychelles company named Cerman Group Limited, incorporated in 2009. When France investigated 2013 allegations by Mediapart that in 2000 Cahuzac had held undeclared assets in an account first in Switzerland, then Singapore, he resigned his cabinet post, protesting his innocence,[185] but admitted a few months later that he indeed had hidden €600,000 in a UBS account and then moved it to keep it hidden, "while continuing to lead France's clampdown on tax evasion".[186] The French Socialist Party unanimously voted to expel him a week later.[187] On the heels of the April 2013 "Cahuzac affair", President Hollande created the parquet national financier (PNF), a judiciary investigation unit specializing in large-scale fraud and corruption investigations.[188]
Emrith, described as a low-level UNC party official, had a second Mossack Fonseca company, Pendrey Associates. Speaking in Parliament, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the leaked documents tied this offshore company to key players in the Petrobras scandal in Brazil, including the convicted Joao Procopio [pt], and Jose Luiz Pires of Queluz, who had dealings with Swiss PKB Privatbank [de] AG. Pires is under investigation, he said.[411]
ICIJ partner Ouestaf.com was able to establish through the Panama Papers the existence of secret contracts between and DP World FZE (DP)and Mamadou Pouye, the bribery codefendant of Karim Wade, son of former prime minister Abdoulaye Wade. This information was not available at their trial; Ouestaf confirmed their financial ties to the corporation for the first time during the Panama Papers investigation.[20] Wade was sentenced in 2015 to a six-year prison term by the Cour de répression de l'enrichissement illicite (Crei), a specialized anti-corruption court.[20] Wade was accused of illegally amassing assets of more than $240 million; and his childhood friend Pouye was sentenced to five years for allegedly helping him.[20] Both denied wrongdoing and the United Nations and Amnesty International said their rights had been violated at trial.[471] Ouestaf's investigation did not address the legality of their trial. It did conclude that they had succeeded in tracing a payment to Pouye's oversea shell company from a subsidiary of DP.

The Pacific coastline is extended by the Azuero Peninsula and the Gulf of Panama and by numerous headlands and bays, whereas the largest embayment on the Caribbean side is Chiriquí Lagoon. The Pacific coastline is more indented and irregular, and its continental shelf is much wider than that on the Atlantic side. In addition, most of the republic’s more than 1,600 islands lie off its Pacific coast; they include the Perlas Archipelago (Pearl Islands) and the islands of Taboga, Cébaco, Parida, Jicarón, and Coiba, the largest. The principal archipelagoes off the Caribbean coast are those of Bocas del Toro and San Blas.


Former President Ahmed al-Mirghani surfaced as a client of Mossack Fonseca.[454] Al-Mirghani, who was president from 1986 to 1989, created Orange Star Corporation in the British Virgin Islands through the Panama firm in 1995, when he was living in Egypt after the coup that ended his presidency. He was active in the Democratic Unionist Party there.[454] 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.[454]
A central spine of mountain ranges extends almost the entire length of Panama, dividing the country into Atlantic- and Pacific-facing slopes. The two principal ranges, the Tabasará Mountains (Cordillera Central) in the west and the Cordillera de San Blas in the east, are separated near the centre of the country by a saddle of lower land. This depression (the Panama Canal site) divides the country again—roughly into western and eastern halves. Of the four quadrants thus formed, the southwestern has the largest number of settlements; however, the environs of the canal account for most of Panama’s population and commerce. The country’s highest peak is an inactive volcano, Barú (Chiriquí), which reaches an elevation of 11,401 feet (3,475 metres).
Individuals and entities may open offshore accounts for any number of reasons, some of which are legal[23] but ethically questionable. A Canadian lawyer based in Dubai noted, for example, that businesses might wish to avoid falling under Islamic inheritance jurisprudence if an owner dies.[24] Businesses in some countries may wish to hold some of their funds in dollars also, said a Brazilian lawyer.[25] Estate planning is another example of legal tax avoidance.
Because of incomplete Spanish control, the Panama route was vulnerable to attack from pirates (mostly Dutch and English), and from "new world" Africans called cimarrons who had freed themselves from enslavement and lived in communes or palenques around the Camino Real in Panama's Interior, and on some of the islands off Panama's Pacific coast. One such famous community amounted to a small kingdom under Bayano, which emerged in the 1552 to 1558. Sir Francis Drake's famous raids on Panama in 1572–73 and John Oxenham's crossing to the Pacific Ocean were aided by Panama cimarrons, and Spanish authorities were only able to bring them under control by making an alliance with them that guaranteed their freedom in exchange for military support in 1582.[20]

The Mossack Fonseca files show Khashoggi appeared as early as 1978, when he became president of the Panamanian company ISIS Overseas S.A. The documents reveal that Fonseca's clients included Sheikh Kamal Adham, Saudi Arabia's first intelligence chief (1963–79), brother-in-law of King Faisal, who was named by a US Senate committee as the CIA's “principal liaison for the entire the Middle East from the mid-1960s through 1979”. Adham controlled offshore companies involved in the B.C.C.I. banking scandal.[380]
Eduardo Morgan of the Panamanian firm Morgan & Morgan accused the OECD of starting the scandal to avoid competition from Panama with the interests of other countries.[138] The Panama Papers affect the image of Panama in an unfair manner and have come to light not as the result of an investigation, but of a hack, said Adolfo Linares, president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap).[139]
A diverse multicultural city of almost 1.3 million, Panama City offers a lot more than an up-close view of the Canal. Shantytowns slink up alongside shiny high-rise condos. The Old City is an atmospheric labyrinth of churches, plazas and palaces. Fifteen miles from downtown Panama City, Soberania National Park is an excellent destination for hiking and birding. For a fascinating look at the canal, take a taxi or local bus to Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and look down on the traffic below.
In response to queries from the Miami Herald and ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca issued a 2,900-word statement listing legal requirements that prevent using offshore companies for tax avoidance and total anonymity, such as FATF protocols which require identifying ultimate beneficial owners of all companies (including offshore companies) before opening any account or transacting any business.
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.[174]
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.
The city was founded on August 15, 1519, by Pedro Arias de Ávila, also known as Pedrarias Dávila. Within a few years of its founding, the city became a launching point for the exploration and conquest of Peru and a transit point for gold and silver headed back to Spain through the Isthmus. In 1671 Henry Morgan with a band of 1400 men attacked and looted the city, which was subsequently destroyed by fire. The ruins of the old city still remain and are a popular tourist attraction known as Panamá la Vieja (Old Panama). The city was rebuilt in 1673 in a new location approximately 5 miles (8 km) southwest of the original city. This location is now known as the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter) of the city.
"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."[79]
In 2008–2009, the Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) and its owner Beny Steinmetz paid just $165 million for the mining rights to the northern portion of Simandou mine, located in the Nzérékoré region of Guinea's interior. Soon after, he sold 51 percent of the rights to Vale for $2.5 billion. Rio Tinto, which had previously held the concession, had invested $450 million into infrastructure at the site.[458] Global Witness says BSGR in fact paid nothing for the rights, and the $165 million represents BSGR's self-reported investment in improvements at the site. It adds that either way BSGR's profit exceeded the national budget of Guinea.[459]

Paralleling the principal mountain chains, a lower mountain arc extends along Panama’s southern coast. It appears only in well-separated segments—for example, on Azuero Peninsula as the Canajagua Massif and in eastern Panama as the Sierra de Jungurudó, Sapo Mountains, and the Majé Mountains. The highlands and mountains are made up primarily of igneous (volcanic) rocks.


On April 7, 2016, the Anti Corruption Commission Bangladesh launched an inquiry to obtain details of the businesses and individuals allegedly affiliated with Mossack Fonseca.[336] Allegations have been made against thirty-two Bangladeshi individuals and two corporations, however, media outlets staking this claim have referenced an old ICIJ database of information compiled during the investigation of the 2013 Offshore Leaks.[337]
New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department said that they were working to obtain details of people who have tax residence in the country who may have been involved in arrangements facilitated by Mossack Fonseca.[493] Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, told Radio New Zealand on April 8, 2016 that New Zealand is a well-known tax haven and a "nice front for criminals".[494] New Zealand provides overseas investors with foreign trusts and look-through companies. New Zealand government policy is to not request disclosure of the identity of either the settlor or the beneficiaries of the trust, and thus the ownership remains secret, and as a consequence, thus hiding the assets from the trust-holder's home jurisdictions. These trusts are not taxed in New Zealand. These trusts can then be used to acquire and own New Zealand registered companies, which become a vehicle by which the trust owners can exercise day to day control over their assets. These New Zealand-registered companies can be designed not to make a profit using loans from tax havens and other profit shifting techniques: the result being tax free income with the general respectability that has typically been associated with companies registered in New Zealand.
Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, elected after the 2008 banking collapse in Iceland, had pledged to clean up corruption in the banking system. But when Sigmundur Davíð took his seat he did not disclose his 50% interest of Wintris, a company that owned bonds of one of the bankrupt banks, nor divest himself of it, until the day before a new law took effect on January 1, 2010 that would have required him to declare this conflict of interest. He sold his share to his wife, who owns the other half.[195] The couple both come from wealthy families. When they bought Wintris he was working as a journalist and she is an anthropologist. Until his failure to disclose the asset, he apparently broke no laws. But the country remembers the 2008 financial crisis all too well and thought it had put it in the past.[196] Since Sigmundur Davíð negotiated on behalf of Iceland with creditors of failed Icelandic banks, the discovery that Sigmundur Davíð's wife is a bondholder caused so much outrage that 22,000–24,000 people attended an anti-government protest outside the parliament on April 4, 2016, almost 8% of the population.[197] Sigmundur Davíð suggested a snap election,[198] but the other members of the coalition government did not want elections, just his resignation. On April 5, 2016, Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson announced his resignation.[199][200]
The urban population, many living below the poverty level, was greatly affected by the 1989 intervention. As pointed out in 1995 by a UN Technical Assistance Mission to Panama, the bombardments during the invasion displaced 20,000 people. The most heavily affected district was impoverished El Chorrillo, where several blocks of apartments were completely destroyed. El Chorrillo had been built in the days of Canal construction, a series of wooden barracks which easily caught fire under the United States attack.[40][41][42] The economic damage caused by the intervention has been estimated between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars. n.p.[32] Most Panamanians supported the intervention.[34][43]
Angola's $5 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), promotes itself as a vehicle of development and prosperity for Angola. The FSDEA is headed by José Filomeno de Sousa "Zenu" dos Santos, the son of President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979. Funded by the state-owned petroleum company Sonangol, the FSDEA has critics who say that its record-keeping is murky and that it seems to engage in nepotism and cronyism.[443]
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