He said the firm was the victim of a hack and that he had no responsibility for what clients did with the offshore companies that they purchased from Mossack Fonseca, which were legal under Panamanian law. Later that day, the Independent Movement (MOVIN)[note 1] called for calm, and expressed hope that the Panamanian justice system would not allow the culprits to go with impunity.
The leaked documents indicate that about US$2 trillion has passed through the firm's hands. Several of the holding companies that appear in the documents did business with sanctioned entities, such as arms merchants and relatives of dictators, while the sanctions were in place. The firm provided services to a Seychelles company named Pangates International, which the US government believes supplied aviation fuel to the Syrian government during the current civil war, and continued to handle its paperwork and certify it as a company in good standing, despite sanctions, until August 2015.
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."
On May 12, 2016, the names of former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, and former Premier of New South Wales Neville Wran, were both found in the Panama Papers, due to the pair's former directorship of the Mossack Fonseca-incorporated company Star Technology Systems Limited. Turnbull and Wran resigned from these positions in 1995, and the Prime Minister has denied any impropriety, stating "had [Star Technology] made any profits—which it did not regrettably—it certainly would have paid tax in Australia."
The dominant feature of Panama's geography is the central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide. The divide does not form part of the great mountain chains of North America, and only near the Colombian border are there highlands related to the Andean system of South America. The spine that forms the divide is the highly eroded arch of an uplift from the sea bottom, in which peaks were formed by volcanic intrusions.
Boquete is one of the original areas in Panama to have an expat community. Held as one of the largest expat populations in Panama, current estimates are the population of expats number 5,000 among the 25,000 people living in this highland mountain town. Boquete has always been a tourist destination for those seeking outdoor activities and cooler weather. Several expats have opened businesses in Boquete such as bakeries, hotels, and restaurants. Boquete has become known as a holistic and wellness center with an array of classes in Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and Chi Gong on offer.
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.
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.
Reporters sorted the documents into a huge file structure containing a folder for each shell company, which held the associated emails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents Mossack Fonseca had generated while doing business with the company or administering it on a client's behalf. Some 4.8 million leaked files were emails, 3 million were database entries, 2.2 million PDFs, 1.2 million images, 320,000 text files, and 2242 files in other formats.
The journalists on the investigative team found business transactions by many important figures in world politics, sports and art. While many of the transactions were legal, since the data is incomplete, questions remain in many other cases; still others seem to clearly indicate ethical if not legal impropriety. Some disclosures – tax avoidance in very poor countries by very wealthy entities and individuals for example – lead to questions on moral grounds. According to The Namibian for instance, a shell company registered to Beny Steinmetz, Octea, owes more than $700,000 US in property taxes to the city of Koidu in Sierra Leone, and is $150 million in the red, even though its exports were more than twice that in an average month in the 2012–2015 period. Steinmetz himself has personal worth of $6 billion.
The Isthmus of Panama was formed about three million years ago when the land bridge between North and South America finally became complete, and plants and animals gradually crossed it in both directions. The existence of the isthmus affected the dispersal of people, agriculture and technology throughout the American continent from the appearance of the first hunters and collectors to the era of villages and cities.
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".
Guinean President Alpha Condé launched an investigation after he was elected in 2010. Separately, so did the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US justice department, suspecting violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In August 2014 Mossack Fonseca received a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) notice from the US government inquiring into ownership of Pentler and two other BSGR companies administered by Mossack Fonseca's Geneva office. However, the president of Pentler's financial management firm, Menachem Eitan, was a fugitive from the US SEC facing charges over a $55 million Ponzi scheme.
Climatic regions are determined less on the basis of temperature than on rainfall, which varies regionally from less than 1,300 millimeters (51.2 in) to more than 3,000 millimeters (118.1 in) per year. Almost all of the rain falls during the rainy season, which is usually from April to December, but varies in length from seven to nine months. In general, rainfall is much heavier on the Caribbean than on the Pacific side of the continental divide. The annual average in Panama City is little more than half of that in Colón. Although rainy-season thunderstorms are common, the country is outside the hurricane belt.
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are uniformly high—as is the relative humidity—and there is little seasonal variation. Diurnal ranges are low; on a typical dry-season day in the capital city, the early morning minimum may be 24 °C (75.2 °F) and the afternoon maximum 30 °C (86.0 °F). The temperature seldom exceeds 32 °C (89.6 °F) for more than a short time. Temperatures on the Pacific side of the isthmus are somewhat lower than on the Caribbean, and breezes tend to rise after dusk in most parts of the country. Temperatures are markedly cooler in the higher parts of the mountain ranges, and frosts occur in the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama.
Former IMF president Rodrigo Rato, vice-president in the conservative government of prime minister José María Aznar, had more than €3.6 million in two offshore companies. He has been charged by Spain with alleged tax offenses, money laundering and corruption among individuals in other cases of corruption. Micaela Domecq-Solís, the wife of Miguel Arias Cañete, currently the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy and formerly the EU Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment, also opened shell societies.
Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in terms of revenue generation. This sector of the economy has seen a great deal of growth since the transfer of the Panama Canal Zone at the end of the twentieth century. The number of hotel rooms increased by more than ten-fold, from 1,400 in 1997 to more than 15,000 in 2013, while the number of annual visitors increased from 457,000 in 1999 to 1.4 million in 2011. The city's hotel occupancy rate has always been relatively high, reaching the second highest for any city outside the United States in 2008, after Perth, Australia, and followed by Dubai. However, hotel occupancy rates have dropped since 2009, probably due to the opening of many new luxury hotels. Several international hotel chains, such as Le Méridien, Radisson, and RIU, have opened or plan to open new hotels in the city, along with those previously operating under Marriott, Sheraton, InterContinental, and other foreign and local brands. The Trump Organization built the Trump Ocean Club, its first investment in Latin America, in 2006 and it is the tallest building in the city. In 2018 it was renamed The Bahia Grand Panama following falling occupancy rates associated with the declining brand value of the Trump name. Hilton Worldwide opened a Hilton Garden Inn in El Cangrejo, and in 2013, The Panamera, the second Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Latin America.
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.
Bollywood celebrities Amitabh Bachchan, his daughter-in-law and actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and actor Ajay Devgan are listed in the papers. Bachchan has denied any connection to overseas companies, and a spokesman for Rai also questioned the documents' authenticity. Bachchan repeated the denial in response to an August 21 report that he was listed as a director of two companies and participated in board meetings.
Currently, Panama City has buses known as Metrobuses, along with two Metro lines. Formerly, the system was dominated by colorfully painted diablos rojos; a few remain. A diablo rojo is usually customized or painted with bright colors, usually depicting famous actors, politicians or singers. Panama City's streets experience frequent traffic jams due to poor planning for now-extensive private vehicle ownership.
The anti-corruption taskforce of the Olusegun Obasanjo government, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, questioned at the time whether the Yar'Adua administration has refrained or was loath to pursue members of the Nigerian elite suspected of corruption, including leading financiers of the ruling party, or those like Ibori who supported had their election.
The city's main retail center was the Panama City Mall until it was permanently closed after Hurricane Michael. It may be turned into an outdoor mall, but this has not been officially confirmed. Another local retail center is the Bay City Pointe, on FL 368 (locally known as 23rd St.), which is still under construction but partially open. Pier Park, on the beach across the Hathaway Bridge spanning St. Andrews Bay, is a third local retail center.
The current wife of former prime minister of Spain Felipe González, María García Vaquero, opened an account in Switzerland for Carmingo Ltd in 2004 in the tax haven of Niue, an island in the South Pacific. The lawyer Cándido Conde-Pumpido Jr., son of former General Prosecutor of Spain and magistrate of the Supreme Court of Spain, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, asked to open a Mossack Fonseca offshore company in 2008, though the transaction wasn't completed[why?]. He had intended the offshore company to be an intermediary in a project to build a skyscraper in the capital of Panama, not to hide money.
Among those indicted were Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner, the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States. They were charged with racketeering and bribery offenses. Others were US and South American sports marketing executives who paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks.
A commonly relayed legend in Panama is that there was a fishing village that bore the name "Panamá", which purportedly meant "an abundance of fish", when the Spanish colonizers first landed in the area. The exact location of the village is unknown. The legend is usually corroborated by Captain Antonio Tello de Guzmán's diary entries, who reports landing at an unnamed village while exploring the Pacific coast of Panama in 1515; he only describes the village as a "same small indigenous fishing town". In 1517, Don Gaspar de Espinosa, a Spanish lieutenant, decided to settle a post in the same location Guzmán described. In 1519, Pedrarias Dávila decided to establish the Spanish Empire's Pacific port at the site. The new settlement replaced Santa María La Antigua del Darién, which had lost its function within the Crown's global plan after the Spanish exploitation of the riches in the Pacific began.
The Procuraduría de la Nación announced that it would investigate Mossack Fonseca and the Panama papers. On April 12, the newly formed Second Specialized Prosecutor against Organized Crime raided Mossack Fonseca and searched their Bella Vista office as part of the investigation initiated by the Panama Papers. The Attorney General's office issued a press release following the raid, which lasted 27 hours, stating that the purpose was "to obtain documents relevant to the information published in news articles that establishes the possible use of the law firm in illegal activities". The search ended without measures against the law firm, confirmed prosecutor Javier Caraballo of the Second Prosecutor Against Organized Crime.
In 2010, HOGL sold its 50 percent stake in Ugandan oil fields to Tullow Uganda for US$1.5 billion. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) applied a US$404 million capital gains tax on the transaction and HOGL refused to pay. A four-year battle in various courts ensued. Ugandan officials, including President Yoweri Museveni and the then-URA Commissioner-General Allen Kagina demanded the payment from Tullow, threatening not to renew its exploration licenses, which were about to expire, unless it deducted the tax from its payment to Heritage and remitted it to the URA. Eventually Tullow made a down payment and deposited the rest in escrow, pending legal resolution of its appeal, which came in 2013. Tullow also successfully sued HOGL to recover taxes they had paid on its behalf.
Mossack Fonseca has managed more than 300,000 companies over the years. The number of active companies peaked at more than 80,000 in 2009. Over 210,000 companies in twenty-one jurisdictions figure in the leaks. More than half were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, others in Panama, the Bahamas, the Seychelles, Niue, and Samoa. Mossack Fonseca's clients have come from more than 100 countries. Most of the corporate clients were from Hong Kong, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Panama, and Cyprus. Mossack Fonseca worked with more than 14,000 banks, law firms, incorporators, and others to set up companies, foundations, and trusts for their clients. Some 3,100 companies listed in the database appear to have ties to US offshore specialists, and 3,500 shareholders of offshore companies list US addresses. Mossack Fonseca has offices in Nevada and Wyoming.
The Panama Papers revealed that the Minister of Finance of Andorra, Jordi Cinca, while he was CEO of Orfund SA, maintained an offshore company called Mariette Holdings Inc, until its dissolution in 2002 for fear of discovery of his participation in these businesses. The business activities of Orfund had ties to the blood diamond trade, and the refining and sale of African gold. This company closed shortly before the civil war in Ivory Coast.
Art collectors Marina Ruiz-Picasso and Borja Thyssen have Mossack Fonseca companies. Thyssen's lawyer said his company was fully declared to tax authorities and Ruiz-Picasso declined comment. Other celebrities involved include Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who won an Oscar in 2003 for Habla con ella and with his brother Agustin created a company in 1991 called Glen Valley in the British Virgin Islands. Agustin responded saying he closed the company in 1994 and it paid all of its taxes.
The city has both public and private schools. Most of the private schools are at least bilingual. Higher education is headed by the two major public universities: the University of Panama and the Technological University of Panama. There are private universities, such as the Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua, the Universidad Latina de Panama, the Universidad Latinoamericana de Ciencia y Tecnología (ULACIT), the Distance and Open University of Panama (UNADP), Universidad del Istmo Panama, the Universidad Maritima Internacional de Panama, and the Universidad Especializada de las Americas. Also, there are Panama Branches of the Nova Southeastern University (its main campus is in Ft. Lauderdale in Broward County, Florida); the University of Oklahoma; the Central Texas University; the University of Louisville which runs a sister campus in the city, and the Florida State University, which operates a broad curriculum program in an academic and technological park known as Ciudad del Saber.