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.
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.
While no standard official definition exists, The Economist and the International Monetary Fund describe an offshore financial center, or tax haven, as a jurisdiction whose banking infrastructure primarily provides services to people or businesses who do not live there, requires little or no disclosure of information when doing business, and offers low taxes.
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.
Asked about the paucity of American individuals in the documents, digital editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stefan Plöchinger, said via Twitter: "Just wait for what is coming next." Plöchinger later clarified that he was just advocating not jumping to conclusions. Copies of at least 200 American passports – indicating that their owners applied for banking services – have been discovered in the Papers, but no US politicians have yet been named in the leak. The names of a few Americans are however mentioned:
After meeting your local guide, you’ll begin your Panama City tour by wandering through the old historic district of Casco Viejo, which is so beautiful it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, your guide will point out landmarks and important features of the neighbourhood, and fill you in on the secrets that only locals know. Continue on through Balboa, exploring some of the old U.S. military zone, and see the headquarters for the legendary Panama Canal before heading to the Miraflores Locks visitor centre. Here you’ll be able to see the ships on their journey through one of the most famous canals the world, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This part of your Panama Canal tour will tell you all you need to know about this incredible feat of engineering, with help from your local guide and a self-guided tour through the museum dedicated to the Canal. From here you’ll head to Ancon to explore more of this famous part of the city before moving on to the Amador Causeway to take in the view of the Bridge of the Americas. We’ll grab bite a bite to eat and enjoy a little nature walk on the Smithsonian-owned Punta Culebra. Enjoy this amazing and historic 'secret' part of Panama City – if you’re lucky, you might even spot a sloth! Finally, your local guide will drop you off back at the start point. From here, you’re free to shop at a local market, enjoy the view from one of the many rooftop bars or take a well-deserved rest and reflect on all you’ve learned about the awesome Panama City!
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".
Finance Vice Minister Fernando Rodríguez said Costa Rica will push to sign a Tax Information Exchange Agreement with Panama. Legislators from several parties are trying to line up political consensus to seek approval of the administration's tax fraud bill and to form a legislative commission to investigate those named in the Panama Papers, according to Emilia Molina Cruz of the Citizens' Action Party. While opposition parties have maintained that the country's financial problems stem from excess spending, according to the Finance Department, the sums Costa Rica loses to tax evasion equal about 8% of the country's gross domestic product, while its deficits have run at about 6%.
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn said "The government needs to stop pussyfooting around on tax dodging" and called for "direct rule" to be imposed over British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies that act as tax havens. Former Business Secretary Vince Cable agreed, although former attorney general Dominic Grieve described the proposal as a "bit of a nuclear option" which would "destroy the livelihoods" of BVI inhabitants in the finance industry. The Labour Party also said that Cameron's planned "anti-corruption" summit in May would be "a charade" if Cameron, as chairman of the summit, did not require representatives of all Crown dependencies and overseas territories to attend.
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.
"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."