The city of Panama is still a banking center, although with very visible controls in the flow of cash. Shipping is handled through port facilities in the area of Balboa operated by the Hutchison Whampoa Company of Hong Kong and through several ports on the Caribbean side of the isthmus. Balboa, which is located within the greater Panama metropolitan area, was formerly part of the Panama Canal Zone, and the administration of the former Panama Canal Zone was headquartered there.
The military dictatorship, at that time[when?] supported by the United States[citation needed], perpetrated the assassination and torture of more than one hundred Panamanians and forced at least a hundred more dissidents into exile. (see Zárate 15).[31] Noriega also began playing a double role in Central America under the supervision of the CIA.[citation needed] While the Contadora group conducted diplomatic efforts to achieve peace in the region, Noriega supplied Nicaraguan Contras and other guerrillas in the region with weapons and ammunition.[27]
Two men linked to Fidentia, a South African asset management company that looted 1.2 billion rand[476] from pension funds meant to provide for 46,000 widows and orphans of mineworkers,[477] had accounts with Mossack Fonseca, which was willing to help hide the money even after South Africa made their names public.[477] The former chief executive of Fidentia, J. Arthur Brown, was sentenced in 2014 to concurrent 15-year sentences.[477] The FBI arrested one man, Steven Goodwin, in Los Angeles in 2008. Sent back to South Africa, Goodwin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud and money laundering.[478] The other, Graham Maddock, was also later jailed in South Africa for fraud.
^ MOVIN: an independent political movement based in Panama, focused on influencing and monitoring the independence, efficiency and transparency of government institutions and their management. See "Civil Society | Policy Areas | ERCAS – European Research Centre for Anti-Corruption and State-Building". www.againstcorruption.eu. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016.
Steinmetz, who has a personal fortune of $6 billion, supplies diamonds to Tiffany and DeBeers and is Sierra Leone's largest private investor. Yet, according to a detailed report in The Namibian, his Octea subsidiary owes, among other debts, property taxes of $700,000 to the city of Koidu. These unpaid taxes are discounted, according to mayor Saa Emerson Lamina, because Octea promised a 5% profit−sharing agreement, and payment 1% of its annual profit to a community development fund, but it did not do this either.[18]
Panama was under Spanish rule for almost 300 years (1538–1821), and became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, along with all other Spanish possessions in South America. From the outset, Panamanian identity was based on a sense of "geographic destiny", and Panamanian fortunes fluctuated with the geopolitical importance of the isthmus. The colonial experience spawned Panamanian nationalism and a racially complex and highly stratified society, the source of internal conflicts that ran counter to the unifying force of nationalism.[19][page needed]
Panama still has a reputation worldwide for being a tax haven but has agreed to enhanced transparency, especially since the release in 2016 of the Panama Papers. Significant progress has been made to improve full compliance with anti-money laundering recommendations. Panama was removed from the FATFGAFI gray list in February 2016. However efforts remain to be made, and the IMF repeatedly mentions the need to strengthen financial transparency and fiscal structure.[60]

United States President Ronald Reagan began a series of sanctions against the military regime. The United States froze economic and military assistance to Panama in the middle of 1987 in response to the domestic political crisis in Panama and an attack on the US embassy. These sanctions did little to overthrow Noriega, but severely damaged Panama's economy. The sanctions hit the Panamanian population hard and caused the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to decline almost 25 percent between 1987 and 1989 (see Acosta n.p.).[32]

The US Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to help bring about the end of conflict diamonds and minerals in the US. The idea was that public opinion would force divestment over time. Section 1502 does not require divestment, but does mandate disclosure.[448] But instead the disclosure requirement has simply meant new business opportunities for money launderers.[449]
Paralleling the principal mountain chains, a lower mountain arc extends along Panama’s southern coast. It appears only in well-separated segments—for example, on Azuero Peninsula as the Canajagua Massif and in eastern Panama as the Sierra de Jungurudó, Sapo Mountains, and the Majé Mountains. The highlands and mountains are made up primarily of igneous (volcanic) rocks.
Mossack Fonseca also ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite US sanctions against him.[101] 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.[99]

Meanwhile, Noriega's regime had fostered a well-hidden criminal economy that operated as a parallel source of income for the military and their allies, providing revenues from drugs and money laundering. Toward the end of the military dictatorship, a new wave of Chinese migrants arrived on the isthmus in the hope of migrating to the United States. The smuggling of Chinese became an enormous business, with revenues of up to 200 million dollars for Noriega's regime (see Mon 167).[30]
In March 2005, Dan Gertler International formed a new company, Global Enterprises Corporate (GEC), with Global Resources, owned by Beny Steinmetz. A former DRC mines minister, Simon Tuma-Waku, was "special adviser". The company formed a joint copper and cobalt mining venture with DRC agency La Générale Des Carriers et Des Mines (Gécamines), which held 25%, and GEC 75%, which they placed into an Isle of Man holding company, Nikanor plc. The IPO raised £400 million in London and the company eventually reached a market capitalization of $1.5 billion for an initial investment of $3 million.[450]
Other non-traditional sports in the country have had great importance such as the triathlon that has captured the attention of many athletes nationwide and the country has hosted international competitions. Flag football has also been growing in popularity in both men and women and with international participation in world of this discipline being among the best teams in the world, the sport was introduced by Americans residing in the Canal Zone for veterans and retirees who even had a festival called the Turkey Ball. Other popular sports are American football, rugby, hockey, softball and other amateur sports including skateboarding, BMX and surfing, because the many beaches of Panama such as Santa Catalina and Venao that have hosted events the likes of ISA World Surfing Games.
Panama was under Spanish rule for almost 300 years (1538–1821), and became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, along with all other Spanish possessions in South America. From the outset, Panamanian identity was based on a sense of "geographic destiny", and Panamanian fortunes fluctuated with the geopolitical importance of the isthmus. The colonial experience spawned Panamanian nationalism and a racially complex and highly stratified society, the source of internal conflicts that ran counter to the unifying force of nationalism.[19][page needed]
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara has opened a criminal investigation on matters related to the Panama Papers and sent a letter April 3 to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) saying his office "would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak as soon as possible."[424] The ICIJ received many such requests from many countries and ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle has said its policy is not to turn over any materials.[425][426]

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.[9]
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.
Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama's rugged landscape. Mostly unnavigable, many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. However, the Río Chagres (Chagres River), located in central Panama, is one of the few wide rivers and a source of hydroelectric power. The central part of the river is dammed by the Gatun Dam and forms Gatun Lake, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal. The lake was created by the construction of the Gatun Dam across the Río Chagres between 1907 and 1913. Once created, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world, and the dam was the largest earth dam. The river drains northwest into the Caribbean. The Kampia and Madden Lakes (also filled from the Río Chagres) provide hydroelectricity for the area of the former Canal Zone.
Ethnic groups in Panama include Mestizo people, who have a mix of European and native ancestry. Black Afro-Panamanians account for 15–20 percent of the population. Most Afro-Panamanians live on the Panama-Colón metropolitan area, the Darien Province, La Palma, and Bocas Del Toro. Neighborhoods in Panama City that have large black populations include: Curundu, El Chorrillo, Rio Abajo, San Joaquín, El Marañón, San Miguelito, and Santa Ana.[citation needed] Black Panamanians are descendants of African slaves brought to the Americas in the Atlantic Slave Trade. The second wave of black people brought to Panama came from the Caribbean during the construction of the Panama Canal. Panama also has a considerable Chinese and Indian (India) population brought to work on the canal during its construction. Most Chinese-Panamanians reside in the province of Chiriquí.[citation needed] Europeans and white-Panamanians are a minority in Panama. Panama is also home to a small Arab community that has mosques, practises Islam, as well as a Jewish community and many synagogues.
Mossack Fonseca also ran six businesses for Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite US sanctions against him.[101] 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.[99]
In 1981 Torrijos died in a plane crash.[29] 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?]

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.[138] 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).[139]
In Panama, nature is all about discovery. Explore the ruins of Spanish forts on the Caribbean coast or boat deep into indigenous territories in a dugout canoe. Wildlife is incidental: a resplendent quetzal on the highland trail, an unruly troupe of screeching howler monkeys outside your cabin or a breaching whale that turns your ferry ride into an adrenaline-filled event. Adventure tourism means zipping through rainforest canopies, swimming alongside sea turtles or trekking to sublime cloud-forest vistas. One small tropical country with two long coasts makes for a pretty big playground.

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.

The US intent to influence the area, especially the Panama Canal's construction and control, led to the separation of Panama from Colombia in 1903 and its establishment as a nation. When the Senate of Colombia rejected the Hay–Herrán Treaty on January 22, 1903, the United States decided to support and encourage the Panamanian separatist movement[24][22]
The Panama Free Trade Agreement, supported by Obama and Clinton, has been accused of enabling the practices detailed within the Panama Papers through regulatory oversight.[416] However, an Obama administration official said the argument has "zero merit".[417] John Cassidy of The New Yorker, said the Panama Free Trade Agreement actually forced Panama to release information to the American regulatory authorities on "the ownership of companies, partnerships, trusts, foundations, and other persons".[418]

Panama's tropical environment supports an abundance of plants. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops. Although nearly 40% of Panama is still wooded, deforestation is a continuing threat to the rain-drenched woodlands. Tree cover has been reduced by more than 50 percent since the 1940s. Subsistence farming, widely practised from the northeastern jungles to the southwestern grasslands, consists largely of corn, bean, and tuber plots. Mangrove swamps occur along parts of both coasts, with banana plantations occupying deltas near Costa Rica. In many places, a multi-canopied rain forest abuts the swamp on one side of the country and extends to the lower reaches of slopes on the other.
Diamond Ocean Enterprises, a Mossack Fonseca entity set up in 2005, reported its purpose as financial consulting to a Namibian diamond manufacturer and polisher.[209] According to the law firm's records, Deutsche Investment Consultants (Asia) Limited, a Mossack Fonseca company set up in the British Virgin Islands for the now-imprisoned Mafioso Vito Palazzolo by Wolf-Peter Berthold, a German banker based in Hong Kong, is a director of the firm. Its shareholders include Peter von Palace Kolbatschenko, Palazzolo's son, Berthold, and Giovanni Agusta.[209]

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and long-time leader of the far-right-wing Front National (FN) and now a member of the European Parliament, already was the subject, along with his daughter Marine Le Pen and his staff, of a PNF tax fraud investigation. Drawing official scrutiny were an undeclared HSBC account containing €2.2m in gold and coins, managed from Geneva by an aide through a trust based in the British Virgin Islands which was closed and then moved to the Bahamas in 2014; allegations of overbilling;[189] misuse and comingling of campaign funds;[189][190] and tax evasion. Jean-Marie Le Pen is also suspected of using his European Parliament funds for the campaign and administrative expenses of his French political party.[191] Jean-Marie Le Pen is mentioned in the documents, along with his daughter Marine Le Pen, who is the current party leader, and Frederic Chatillon, an FN insider who is also a close friend of Marine. Among the three of them, they may have hidden as much as a million pounds in offshore accounts.[192]
Panamá is located between the Pacific Ocean and tropical rain forest in the northern part of Panama. The Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Nature Park), stretching from Panama City along the Panama Canal, has unique bird species and other animals, such as tapir, puma, and caimans. At the Pacific entrance of the canal is the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Marine Exhibitions Center), a research center for those interested in tropical marine life and ecology, managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Minister of Industry and Mines Abdeslam Bouchouareb has been sole owner of a Panamanian-registered offshore company known as Royal Arrival Corp since 2015. The company, active in Turkey, Great Britain and Algeria, is managed through Compagnie d'Etude et de Conseil (CEC), based in Luxembourg, and has an account in the Swiss NBAD Private Bank. CEC confirmed the ownership of Royal Arrival and said it managed the minister's inherited assets with transparency.[438]
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.[32][33]

The Ministry of Economy and Finance of Panama, Dulcidio de la Guardia, formerly an offshore specialist at Mossack Fonseca competitor Morgan & Morgan, said the legal but often "murky" niche of establishing offshore accounts, firms and trusts make up "less than half a percentage point" of Panama's GDP. He appeared to suggest that publication of the papers was an attack on Panama because of the high level of economic growth that the country had shown.[137]
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.[80] 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."[81]
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