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.
In 2015, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) was contacted by an anonymous source calling him or herself "John Doe," who offered to leak the documents. Doe did not demand any financial compensation in return, according to the SZ. The total volume of data comes to about 2.76 terabytes, making it the biggest data leak in history. The data pertains to the period spanning from the 1970s to the spring of 2016.
Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli was elected to succeed Martin Torrijos with a landslide victory in the May 2009 presidential election. Martinelli's business credentials drew voters worried by slowing growth due to the 2008 financial crisis. Standing for the four-party opposition Alliance for Change, Martinelli gained 60 percent of the vote, against 37 percent for the candidate of the governing left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party.
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; misuse and comingling of campaign funds; 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. 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.
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.
Individuals and entities may open offshore accounts for any number of reasons, some of which are legal but ethically questionable. A Canadian lawyer based in Dubai noted, for example, that businesses might wish to avoid falling under Islamic inheritance jurisprudence if an owner dies. Businesses in some countries may wish to hold some of their funds in dollars also, said a Brazilian lawyer. Estate planning is another example of legal tax avoidance.
When Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko took office in 2014, a popular uprising had just toppled his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. Poroshenko pledged to sell his candy business (Roshen) if elected, but leaked documents indicate that on August 21, 2014 he instead had Mossack Fonseca set up offshore holding company Prime Asset Partners Ltd in the British Virgin Islands and moved his company there, roughly two months after the election. The move had the potential to save him millions of dollars on his Ukrainian taxes. Records in Cyprus show him as the firm's only shareholder. Some legal experts say the explanation may be sound; however this isn't making a difference to Ukrainian media making the point that Poroshenko opened his offshore account in August 2014 as Ukrainian soldiers were being massacred by the Russians in Ilovaisk. The Panama Papers report may also have figured in the defeat of a trade deal with the Netherlands in a referendum there on April 6.
Aristóteles Núñez, in charge at the time of the government's tax administration, Servicio de Administración Tributaria, said that people involved in the Panama Papers case can still make tax declarations and pay taxes on their investments. Being Mexican and having foreign investments or bank accounts is not a crime, but having income and not declaring it is illegal. If investments are categorized as tax evasion, fines of up to 100% of the omitted tax payment can result, as well as three months to nine years imprisonment.
In 2006, the Pakistani National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accused Bhutto, Malik and Ali Jaffery of owning Petrofine, established since 2000 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Bhutto and the Pakistan Peoples Party denied it. In April 2006 an NAB court froze assets owned in Pakistan and elsewhere by Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, saying that the assets, totaling $1.5 billion, were the result of corrupt practices, and that Swiss charges of criminal money laundering filed in 1997 were still in litigation.
Soon the filings almost covered the island's year budget. The US government however made official noises in 2001 about laundering criminal proceeds and Chase Bank blacklisted the island and Bank of New York followed suit. This caused inconvenience to the population so they let their contract with Mossack Fonseca expire and many of the privacy-seekers on the banking world moved on. Some did stay however, apparently; the Panama Papers database lists nearly 10,000 companies and trusts set up on Niue, population 1200.
HSBC also appeared to reassure Mossack Fonseca not only that it was "comfortable" with Makhlouf as a client but suggested there could be a rapprochement with the Assad family by the US. Makhlouf is already known to be a long-standing client of HSBC's Swiss private bank, holding at least $15 million with it in multiple accounts in 2006. The Panamanian files also show HSBC provided financial services to a Makhlouf company called Drex Technologies, which HSBC said was a company of "good standing".
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.
Hussain Nawaz said his family won't hamper any investigation, and urged one of former president Pervez Musharraf as well. The government on April 15 announced an investigation by an inquiry commission of all Pakistanis named in the documents. Opposition politicians said a judge, not a retired judge, should investigate. Numerous judges recused themselves. On July 28, 2017, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, disqualified Sharif from holding office.
The Panama Papers is a documentary that portrays the history of the global leak that involved a now infamous legal services company based in Panama, and its activities involved in setting up offshore shell companies to help celebrities, politicians and powerful figures from around the globe, in avoiding taxes, money laundering, and other financial crimes. This issue, of global relevance since it involves sistemic corruption in the global financial system and most countries around the world, was, however, poorly explained in this movie.
Panama, Vanuatu and Lebanon may find themselves on a list of uncooperative tax havens that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) re-activated in July 2016 at the request of G20 nations, warned Le Monde, a French newspaper that participated in the investigation. Those three countries followed none of the OECD's three broad guidelines for international banking cooperation:
ItineraryThis is a typical itinerary for this productStop At: Fort San Lorenzo, Colon, Colon ProvinceThe ruins of San Lorenzo Fort which is famous for repelling attacks by all the pirates of the Caribbean for almost 75 years. Duration: 1 hourStop At: Agua Clara Locks, Colon, Colon ProvinceYou will have the opportunity to see post-Panamax boat transiting the new Canal Locks.Duration: 1 hour