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.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a former vice president of Iraq, owned property through Mossack Fonseca shell companies registered in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, for security reasons following an assassination attempt, according to his spokesperson, who added that any income from the properties was reported and taxes paid "promptly and on time."
The Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the newspapers participating in the project that made the papers public, described the connections of various individuals listed in them to Russian president Vladimir Putin. They quoted Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman and US State Department documents saying that Russia is a "kleptocracy" and a "mafia state" respectively. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported about $2 billion had moved through a network of companies associated with Russian firms and individuals in "just a few years" and the companies appeared to have been used for "questionable business transactions".
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. 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.
Leaked documents suggest that Mossack Fonseca helped tuna export company Borda Azul set up a shell company in the British Virgin Islands in order to avoid Costa Rican taxes. The firm, now out of business, was headed by Hermes Navarro, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation from 1999 to 2006. In the late 1990s the Finance Ministry and Prosecutor's Office investigated Borda Azul and other export companies for allegedly misusing tax credit certificates; in 1997 dozens of companies had been accused of using the certificates for fraud and to launder drug profits.
The documents were dubbed the Panama Papers because of the country they were leaked from; however, the Panamanian government expressed strong objections to the name over concerns that it would tarnish the government's and country's image worldwide, as did other entities in Panama and elsewhere. This led to an advertising campaign some weeks after the leak, titled "Panama, more than papers". Some media outlets covering the story have used the name "Mossack Fonseca papers".
In addition to the much-covered business dealings of British prime minister David Cameron and Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the leaked documents also contain identity information about the shareholders and directors of 214,000 shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, as well as some of their financial transactions. It is generally not against the law (in and of itself) to own an offshore shell company, although offshore shell companies may sometimes be used for illegal purposes.
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.
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.
In a 2015 declaration of assets, dated February 8 and submitted to the Maltese Parliament at the end of March 2016, which Muscat said he'd been shown in draft form before the Panama Papers were leaked, Mizzi listed the trust in New Zealand and the shell company in Panama. As of April 28, 2016 a report on the matter commissioned by the Government of Malta by an unnamed international audit firm was still pending. On April 28, 2016 Muscat announced a cabinet reshuffle; Mizzi lost his ministerial portfolio of Health and Energy, but was retained as a minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Revenue from canal tolls continues to represent a significant portion of Panama's GDP, although commerce, banking, and tourism are major and growing sectors. It is regarded as a high-income country. In 2015 Panama ranked 60th in the world in terms of the Human Development Index. In 2018, Panama was ranked seventh-most competitive economy in Latin America, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index. Covering around 40 percent of its land area, Panama's jungles are home to an abundance of tropical plants and animals – some of them found nowhere else on earth. Panama is a founding member of the United Nations and other international organizations such as OAS, LAIA, G77, WHO and NAM.
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?]
Getting to Panama City Beach is a cinch, thanks to its proximity to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP). The airport is only 20 minutes by car from the shimmering white sands that make Panama City Beach such a hotspot on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you can catch sight of dolphins, go scuba diving amid shipwrecks, and explore the dunes and forests of St Andrews State Park.
Since the end of Manuel Noriega's military dictatorship in 1989, Panama has successfully completed five peaceful transfers of power to opposing political factions. The political landscape is dominated by two major parties and many smaller parties, many of which are driven by individual leaders more than ideologies. Former President Martín Torrijos is the son of general Omar Torrijos. He succeeded Mireya Moscoso, the widow of Arnulfo Arias. Panama's most recent national elections occurred on May 4, 2014, with incumbent vice-President Juan Carlos Varela declared the victor. The 2019 Panamanian general election is scheduled for May 5, 2019, with current President Juan Carlos Varela being ineligible due to constitutional limits for a second term.
Jean-Claude N'Da Ametchi, an advisor to former president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to accept that he lost an election in 2010, is also mentioned in the leaked documents. The European Union sanctioned banker N'Da Ametchi in 2011 for helping to finance the Gbagbo regime. His offshore company, Cadley House Ltd, was registered in the Seychelles with bearer bonds and a bank account in Morocco. N'Da Ametchi sent email in 2011 to the Geneva office of Mossack Fonseca, naming the Geneva bank Pasche financial managers of the company. In September 2012 he acted as sole director to request they transfer its registration to Abidjan. Neither Mossack Fonseca nor the banks mentioned the European sanctions; these were eventually lifted in 2012. The company was apparently still active in 2015, according to documents seen by Le Monde. He is currently an advisor to former prime minister Charles Konan Banny, who lost the October 2015 presidential election.
And then there are factors the lists and indexes can’t quantify. For instance, the people of Panama are beautiful, inside and out. Get to know them just a little and you’ll see they have big hearts and an even bigger zest for life. They’re welcoming to foreigners, who in turn feel safe here. Increasing numbers of North Americans, Europeans, and others are moving here and contributing to the burgeoning economy.
Leaked documents examined by the ABC "pierced the veil of anonymous shell companies" and linked a Sydney businessman and a Brisbane geologist to mining deals in North Korea. "Rather than applying sanctions, the Australian Government and the ASX seem to have allowed a coach and horses to be ridden through them by the people involved in forming this relationship, corporate relationship with one of the primary arms manufacturers in North Korea," said Thomas Clark of the University of Technology Sydney.
WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist who worked on Cablegate in 2010, said withholding some documents for a time does maximise the leak's impact, but called for full online publication of the Panama Papers eventually. A tweet from WikiLeaks criticized the decision of the ICIJ to not release everything for ethical reasons: "If you censor more than 99% of the documents you are engaged in 1% journalism by definition."
Panama is bounded to the north by the Caribbean Sea (an extension of the Atlantic Ocean) and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. It has an elongated S shape, with its Caribbean coastline stretching some 800 miles (1,290 km) and the Pacific coast some 1,060 miles (1,700 km); however, a line drawn from the Costa Rican frontier in the west to the Colombian border in the east would extend only 480 miles (770 km). The shortest distance across the isthmus is about 30 miles (50 km), from the mouth of the Nergalá (Necategua) River, which flows into the Gulf of San Blas on the Caribbean shore, to the mouth of the Chepo River on the Pacific coast. Nearly as narrow is the portion of the isthmus traversed by the Panama Canal.