You don't have to make it all the way to the Darién to get off the beaten path – though if you do, you've hit one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet. Go where the wild things are. Soak in the spray of towering waterfalls near highland Santa Fé. Visit one of Panama's seven indigenous groups through community tourism. Live out your castaway fantasies in the Guna Yala or idle on a wilderness beach in Península de Azuero. Howl back at the creatures sharing the canopy. Panama is as wild as you want it to be.
Law firms play a central role in offshore financial operations. Mossack Fonseca is one of the biggest in its field and the biggest financial institutions refer customers to it. Its services to clients include incorporating and operating shell companies in friendly jurisdictions on their behalf. They can include creating "complex shell company structures" that, while legal, also allow the firm's clients "to operate behind an often impenetrable wall of secrecy". The leaked papers detail some of their intricate, multilevel, and multinational corporate structures. Mossack Fonseca has acted with global consultancy partners like Emirates Asset Management Ltd, Ryan Mohanlal Ltd, Sun Hedge Invest and Blue Capital Ltd on behalf of more than 300,000 companies, most of them registered in the British Overseas Territories.
The Municipality of Regulation and Supervision of Financial Subjects [not the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF)] initiated a special review of the law firm Mossack Fonseca to determine whether it had followed tax law. Carlamara Sanchez, in charge of this proceeding, said at a press conference that the quartermaster had come to verify whether the firm had complied since April 8 with due diligence, customer knowledge, the final beneficiary and reporting of suspicious transactions to Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) operations. She said that Law 23 of 2015 empowers regulation and supervision and said some firms had been monitored since late last year with special attention after the Panama Papers, and noted that the law carries fines $5,000 to $1 million or even suspension of the firm.
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.
"John Doe", the whistleblower who leaked the documents to German journalist Bastian Obermayer from the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), remains anonymous, even to the journalists who worked on the investigation. "My life is in danger", he told them. In a May 6, 2016, statement, John Doe cited income inequality as the reason for his action, and said he leaked the documents "simply because I understood enough about their contents to realize the scale of the injustices they described". He added that he had never worked for any government or intelligence agency and expressed willingness to help prosecutors if granted immunity from prosecution. After SZ verified that the statement did in fact come from the source for the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) posted the full document on its website.
Computer security expert Chris Kubecka announced May 24, 2016 that the Mossack Fonseca client login portal was running four different government grade remote access trojans (RATs). Kubecka confirmed there were still numerous critical vulnerabilities, too many open ports into their infrastructure and internet access to their archive server due to weak security. Kubecka explained how each data security issue was discovered in detail in a full-length book titled Down the Rabbit Hole: An OSINT Journey.
In response to queries from the Miami Herald and ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca issued a 2,900-word statement listing legal requirements that prevent using offshore companies for tax avoidance and total anonymity, such as FATF protocols which require identifying ultimate beneficial owners of all companies (including offshore companies) before opening any account or transacting any business.
What they had counted on, however, was the influence of the separatists in the capital. Ever since October 1821, when the former Governor General, Juan de la Cruz Murgeón, left the isthmus on a campaign in Quito and left a colonel in charge, the separatists had been slowly converting Fábrega to the separatist side. So, by November 10, Fábrega was now a supporter of the independence movement. Soon after the separatist declaration of Los Santos, Fábrega convened every organization in the capital with separatist interests and formally declared the city's support for independence. No military repercussions occurred because of skillful bribing of royalist troops.
The longest highway in the world, the Pan-American Highway is 19,000 miles stretching from Alaska to Panama. The highway is interrupted in Panama in the province of the Darien Gap by 100 miles of swampland and thick forested jungles which is home to indigenous tribes. The highway continues on the Colombia side for another 11,000 miles ending in Ushuaia, Argentina.
The Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between the governments of the United States and Panama was signed on October 27, 1982. The treaty protects US investment and assists Panama in its efforts to develop its economy by creating conditions more favorable for US private investment and thereby strengthening the development of its private sector. The BIT was the first such treaty signed by the US in the Western Hemisphere. A Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) was signed in 2007, approved by Panama on July 11, 2007 and by US President Obama on October 21, 2011, and the agreement entered into force on October 31, 2012.
The ICIJ investigation traces out many levels of offshore holdings in multiple countries related to the business dealings of Beny Steinmetz, with many serious findings such as a request that Mossack Fonseca backdate the revocation of a power of attorney. Mossack Fonseca records show that Sierra Leone diamond exporter Octea, based in the British Virgin Islands with the Steinmetz family as its beneficiaries, is wholly owned by Guernsey-based BSGR Resources, linked to a bribery scandal in Guinea. Foundations in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, among them Nysco and Balda, own BSGR. In 2007, one of Nysco's bank accounts contained $27.7 million.
The National Mineral Agency (NMA) until 2005 valued diamonds for export using a price book based on 1996 figures. Companies also often seek to minimize the value of their diamond exports to reduce taxes and move profits abroad. Once transferred to a subsidiary elsewhere where their value is not taxed, the same diamonds are frequently worth more.
Newspaper Inkyfada had access to the documents and reported a dozen politicians, former government officials and lawyers had been implicated, as well as a leading media figure. Monday April 4, 2016 it reported that the former secretary-general of the Nidaa Tounes political party, Mohsen Marzouk, who was also the coordinator of the new political party, Machrouu Tounes, was on the point of creating his own account in December 2014, in the first presidential elections. Marzouk had written Mossack Fonseca about a company in the Virgin Islands, emphasizing a desire to hold funds and conduct business overseas. Marzouk denies this and has filed a defamation complaint.
Initially, only select names of politicians, public officials, businessmen, and others involved were revealed. One of the immediate consequences of the revelations was the April 4, 2016, resignation of Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson. On May 9, all of the 214,488 offshore entities named in the Panama Papers became searchable via a database on the website of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Mossack Fonseca's Hong Kong office was its busiest, says the ICIJ, as Chinese officials and other wealthy figures would carry funds across the border and deposit them there to be channeled to offshore entities. Hong Kong invested HK$4.6 trillion (£360 billion) into the BVI – more than Hong Kong invested in mainland China – and received HK$4.1 trillion (over £300 billion) from the BVI. A further £20 billion or so was placed into the Cayman Islands and Bermuda individually.
Panama's politics take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Panama is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
One of the most important Panamanian artists is Alfredo Sinclair. He has worked for over 50 years in abstract art and has produced one of the most important artistic collections in the country. His daughter, Olga Sinclair, has also followed in his footsteps and has become another force in Panamanian art. Another very prominent Panamanian artist is Guillermo Trujillo, known worldwide for his abstract surrealism. Brooke Alfaro is Panamanian artist known throughout the world for his uniquely rendered oil paintings. Another prominent artist is Mario Calvit, known as one of the great painters of the generation that flourished in the country between the decades of 1950 and 1970.
There were 14,792 households, out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.3% were headed by married couples living together, 6.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.8% were non-families. 34.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.0% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28, and the average family size was 2.91.
Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said his panel will investigate Sri Lankan names that come up in the Panama Papers, as well as the 46 who appear in the 2013 Offshore Leaks, according to the Daily Mail, since earlier leadership apparently did not do so. The country has many large outstanding foreign loans taken out under the administration of former president Mahinda Rajapakse, and the current government recently had to obtain a US$1.5 billion IMF bailout. Rajapakse has denied diverting funds. The current government came to power in January 2016 on an anti-corruption platform.
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.
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.
The Panama Papers are an unprecedented leak of 11.5m files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ then shared them with a large network of international partners, including the Guardian and the BBC.