Official Chinese statistics show investment in British Overseas Territories acting as tax havens being much more significant than in other places: $44 billion invested in the Cayman Islands and $49 billion in the British Virgin Islands. Despite these figures "probably exclud[ing] the private investments of the many family members of the ruling elite who have channelled money through the BVI", both figures exceed Chinese investment in the United States and United Kingdom.
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.
Mossack Fonseca also ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite US sanctions against him. Internal Mossack Fonseca documents show that in 2011 Mossack Fonseca rejected a recommendation by their own compliance team to sever ties to Mr. Makhlouf. They agreed to do so only months later. The firm has said it never knowingly allowed anyone connected with rogue regimes to use its companies.
Samina Durrani, mother of Shebaz Sharif's second wife, and Ilyas Mehraj, brother of his first, also figure in the documents. Habib Waqas Group/Ilyas Mehraj is listed as a shareholder with 127,735 shares in Haylandale Limited, registered July 24, 2003 in the Bahamas. Mehraj has denied knowing anything about "any company whether incorporated in the Commonwealth of Bahamas or anywhere else under the name: Haylandale Ltd." Rainbow Limited, the newest of the three offshore companies owned by Samina Durrani, was registered September 29, 2010 in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Armani River Limited, registered in the Bahamas on May 16, 2002, describes its assets as "property in London, which is not currently rented." Assets of Star Precision Limited, registered in BVI May 21, 1997, were reported as "cash as the investment portfolio. We are also holding 1,165,238 shares in Orix Leasing Pakistan Limited."
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.
The Panama Papers show Major-General of Justice and head of Armenia's Compulsory Enforcement Service Mihran Poghosyan was connected to three Panama-registered companies: Sigtem Real Estates Inc., Hopkinten Trading Inc., and Bangio Invest S.A., which issued bearer shares only. Poghosyan, who has a degree in economics, was the sole owner of Sigtem and Hopkinten, which together owned Best Realty Ltd, recently awarded government contracts.
According to Forbes, "Hinojosa and other prominent Mexicans, mostly businessmen with close ties to the government, including at least one member of the Forbes billionaires list, were the subject of extensive articles published online by ICIJ investigation partners Proceso and Aristegui Noticias Sunday." Proceso also said that the Mexicans mentioned in the leaked documents included individuals linked to drug cartels.
The Caribbean coastline is marked by several natural harbors. However, Cristóbal, at the Caribbean terminus of the canal, had the only important port facilities in the late 1980s. The numerous islands of the Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro, near the Beaches of Costa Rica, provide an extensive natural roadstead and shield the banana port of Almirante. The more than 350 San Blas Islands near Colombia, are strung out over more than 160 kilometres (99 miles) along the sheltered Caribbean coastline.
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.
Coronado is a vibrant community located just one hour from Panama City, and many Panamanians have second homes here on the beach. Of the 5,000 plus population there is a large group of expats which are a mix of Canadians, Americans, and Europeans. Built in 1941, this beach community is trendy with shops, restaurants, activities, and resorts. On weekends it is a favorite getaway spot for Panama City residents to spend time at the beach.
The bus terminal located in Ancon offers buses in and out of the city. Bus service is one of the most widely used forms of transportation in Panama. The terminal receives thousands of passengers daily from locations like David, Chiriqui, and the central provinces of Herrera and Los Santos. The terminal also receives international passengers from Central America via the Pan-American Highway.
A 2012 investigation, by Radio Free Europe and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) discovered that through overseas holding companies, the daughters of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev owned an interest in a gold mine operation created by a 2006 presidential decree forming a consortium, then awarding it a 30-year lease over environmental and transparency objections in Parliament.
Bidzina Ivanishvili became wealthy in Russia before returning to Georgia and becoming prime minister in 2012; his public official's asset declaration was 72 pages long. However, he does not list Lynden Management, a Mossack Fonseca company which held about 20% of the shares of Raptor Pharmaceuticals (which he did declare), a US-based company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. He refused for nearly four years to provide a copy of his passport and a proof of address to the law firm, which needed it to comply with money-laundering regulations as well as inquiries into the company by the Financial Investigation Agency of the British Virgin Islands.