Since 1914 the 51-mile- (82-km-) long Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, has afforded a long-sought shortcut for shipping and assures the country’s standing as one of the most strategic transportation hubs of the world. The canal also secures Panama’s ongoing role in international affairs and world commerce. The United States relinquished jurisdiction of the Panama Canal on December 31, 1999, marking an unprecedented shift in Panamanian society. For the first time in nearly a century as an independent nation, Panama controlled the entirety of its national territory.
The city proper has approximately 880,691 inhabitants in 23 boroughs. The inhabitants of Panama City are commonly referred to as capitalinos and include large numbers of Afro-Panamanians, mestizos, and mulattos, with notable white and Asian minorities. There is a great deal of cultural diversity within the city, which manifests itself in the wide variety of languages commonly spoken, such as German, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew and English, in addition to Spanish.
By 1900 Panama wanted to declare itself independent from Colombia and in 1903, Panama declared independence and the U.S. recognized the sovereignty of the new country. Colombia finally relinquished in 1921 and declared Panama a separate nation. As U.S. presence increased with the building of the canal, taken on from the French, but the U.S. influence and intervention was not welcomed in all circles of Panama.
Tourism in Panama is rapidly growing. It has maintained its growth over the past five years due to government tax and price discounts to foreign guests and retirees. These economic incentives have caused Panama to be regarded as a relatively good place to retire. Real estate developers in Panama have increased the number of tourism destinations in the past five years because of interest in these visitor incentives.
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".
"The most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes", The Economist added. Oxfam blamed tax havens in its 2016 annual report on income inequality for much of the widening gap between rich and poor. "Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, "depriving governments, rich and poor, of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality."
In 1981 Torrijos died in a plane crash. Torrijos' death altered the tone of Panama's political evolution. Despite the 1983 constitutional amendments which proscribed a political role for the military, the Panama Defense Force (PDF), as they were then known, continued to dominate Panamanian political life. By this time, General Manuel Antonio Noriega was firmly in control of both the PDF and the civilian government.[when?]
Lucien Ebata, a Kinshasa businessman, runs Orion Group SA, registered in the Seychelles in 2009 by Mossack Fonseca through the Luxembourg-based Figed, according to the Panama Papers. Ebata, who receives a salary of a million dollars, does a business volume of around a billion, and counts both Shell and the Société nationale des pétroles du Congo (SNPC) among his customers.
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.
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. 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).
With a plethora of deserted islands, chilled Caribbean vibes on one side and monster Pacific swells on the other, Panama sits poised to deliver the best of beach life. And a whole other world begins at the water's edge. Seize it by scuba diving with whale sharks in the Pacific, snorkeling the rainbow reefs of Bocas del Toro or setting sail in the indigenous territory of Guna Yala, where virgin isles sport nary a footprint. Meanwhile surfers will be psyched to have world-class breaks all to themselves. Hello, paradise.
^ Uri Blau; Daniel Dolev; Shuki Sadeh (April 3, 2016). "Panama Papers: Hundreds of Israeli Companies, Shareholders Listed in Leaked Documents Detailing Offshore Holdings: Leaked documents of Panamanian law firm reveal shell companies linked to prominent Israeli lawyers and business persons". Haaretz. Archived from the original on April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
Andy Yan, an urban planning researcher and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia, studied real estate sales in Vancouver—also thought to be affected by foreign purchasers—found that 18% of the transactions in Vancouver's most expensive neighborhoods were cash purchases, and 66% of the owners appeared to be Chinese nationals or recent arrivals from China. Calls for more data on foreign investors have been rejected by the provincial government. Chinese nationals accounted for 70% of 2014 Vancouver home sales for more than CA$3 million. On June 24, 2016 China CITIC Bank Corp filed suit in Canada against a Chinese citizen who borrowed CN¥50 million for his lumber business in China, but then withdrew roughly CA$7.5 million from the line of credit and left the country. He bought three houses in Vancouver and Surrey, British Columbia together valued at CA$7.3 million during a three-month period in June 2014.
American film-maker Stanley Kubrick had an estimated personal worth of $20 million when he died in 1999, much of it invested in an 18th-century English manor he bought in 1978. He lived in that manor for the rest of his life, filming scenes from The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut there as well. Three holding companies set up by Mossack Fonseca now own the property, and are in turn held by trusts set up for his children and grandchildren. Since Kubrick was an American living in Britain, without the trust his estate would have had to pay transfer taxes to both governments and possibly have been forced to sell the property to obtain the liquid assets to pay them. Kubrick is buried on the grounds along with one of his daughters, and the rest of his family still lives there.
The ICIJ investigation of Mossack Fonseca was reported to the Public Ministry. Samid Dan Sandoval, former candidate for mayor of Santiago de Veraguas (2014), filed the legal action against the journalists and all those who had participated. He said the project name damaged the integrity, dignity and sovereignty of the country and that the consortium would have to assume legal responsibility for all damage caused to the Panamanian nation.
Mossack Fonseca's Hong Kong office was its busiest, says the ICIJ, as Chinese officials and other wealthy figures would carry funds across the border and deposit them there to be channeled to offshore entities. Hong Kong invested HK$4.6 trillion (£360 billion) into the BVI – more than Hong Kong invested in mainland China – and received HK$4.1 trillion (over £300 billion) from the BVI. A further £20 billion or so was placed into the Cayman Islands and Bermuda individually.
According to the ICIJ, Aliyev's daughter Arzu not only has financial stakes not only in gold rights but also in Azerfon, the country's largest mobile phone business. She has shares in SW Holding, which "controls nearly every operation related to Azerbaijan Airlines" (Azal), from meals to airport taxis. Both sisters and their brother Heydar own property in Dubai valued at roughly $75 million in 2010; Heydar is the legal owner of nine luxury mansions in Dubai purchased for some $44 million.
Panama City's public schools are operated by Bay District Schools. A system of charter schools, University Academy and Bay Haven Schools also services the Panama City area. Private schools in the city include, Holy Nativity Episcopal School, St. John Catholic School, Jacob Austin Prep. Academy, Covenant Christian School. Gulf Coast State College, formerly Gulf Coast Community College, is now a 4-year state college. Florida State University Panama City Campus and a satellite campus of Troy University are located in the city. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University has a satellite campus on Tyndall Air Force Base. Public high schools in the Panama City metro-area include Rutherford High School, Bay High School, Mosley High School, Arnold High School, Bozeman Learning Center, and Rosenwald High School.
President Barack Obama addressed the overseas shell companies listed by the leak in a press conference: "It's not that they're breaking the laws," he said, "it's that the laws are so poorly designed that they allow people, if they've got enough lawyers and enough accountants, to wiggle out of responsibilities that ordinary citizens are having to abide by." Although no leader in the US was mentioned in the Panama Papers, Obama said that "Frankly, folks in America are taking advantage of the same stuff".