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]
According to ICIJ investigative partners DataBaseAR and Seminario Universidad, Mossack Fonseca helped Borda Azul fabricate invoices to allow it to report both inflated costs—to reduce its taxes—and inflated exports, to allow it to continue to qualify for the tax credit certificates. In a letter dated October 19, 1998, a Mossack Fonseca lawyer explained the investigation to the Panama City office and concluded:

There are several factors to consider when answering this question. It depends on where you are living in Panama. Small towns in rural areas will be far cheaper than if you choose to live in Panama City. Another big factor is what your personal lifestyle is. If you prefer to eat local food, participate in free activities, and live like the locals then a couple can live well on less than $2,000 a month.


Located at the tip of the Azuero Peninsula, Pedasi is a quaint unassuming beach town with a pristine downtown area. The expat community numbers several hundred within the total population of just under 5,000. This expat community is growing as visitors have discovered this treasured jewel. Not much further down the two-lane road is Playa Venao, one of Panama’s best surfing beaches.

Panama enjoys a lively mix of cultural influences, expressed in the country’s cuisine, artwork, music, and literature. Its capital, Panama City, is located on the Pacific coast just east of the canal. A cosmopolitan city where skyscrapers tower above whitewashed bungalows, it enjoys a handsome setting and a growing importance as a commercial and financial services centre for the region. However, its economic progress has been hampered periodically by environmental problems and political turmoil.
The US influence in Panama can be seen in the country's sports. Baseball is Panama's national sport and the country has regional teams and a national team that represents it in international events. At least 140 Panamanian players have played professional baseball in the United States, more than any other Central American country.[89] Notable players include Bruce Chen, Rod Carew, Mariano Rivera, Carlos Lee, Manny Sanguillén, and Carlos Ruiz.
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.
According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2012 Panama had an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent.[9] A food surplus was registered in August 2008. On the Human Development Index, Panama ranked 60th in 2015. In recent years, Panama's economy has experienced a boom, with growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) averaging over 10.4 percent in 2006–2008. Panama's economy has been among the fastest growing and best managed in Latin America.[citation needed] The Latin Business Chronicle predicted that Panama would be the fastest growing economy in Latin America during the five-year period from 2010–14, matching Brazil's 10 percent rate.[54]
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.
Undergoing redevelopment, the old quarter has become one of the city's main tourist attractions, second only to the Panama Canal. Both government and private sectors are working on its restoration.[30] President Ricardo Martinelli built an extension to the Cinta Costera maritime highway viaduct in 2014 named "Cinta Costera 3" around the Casco Antiguo.[31]
The mountain range of the divide is called the Cordillera de Talamanca near the Costa Rican border. Farther east it becomes the Serranía de Tabasará, and the portion of it closer to the lower saddle of the isthmus, where the Panama Canal is located, is often called the Sierra de Veraguas. As a whole, the range between Costa Rica and the canal is generally referred to by geographers as the Cordillera Central.
An investigation by ICIJ partner The Namibian found that the imprisoned mafioso Vito Roberto Palazzolo shielded his finances from Italian, Namibian and South African authorities with shell companies in the British Virgin Islands set up by a German banker in Hong Kong, Wolf-Peter Berthold, which they also used to transfer control of Palazzolo's assets to his son.[209]
DCB Finance, a Virgin Islands-based shell company founded by North Korean banker Kim Chol-sam[104] and British banker Nigel Cowie,[105] also ignored international sanctions and continued to do business with North Korea with the help of the Panamanian firm. The US Treasury Department in 2013 called DCB Finance a front company for Daedong Credit Bank and announced sanctions against both companies for providing banking services to North Korean arms dealer Korea Mining and Development Trading Corporation,[104] attempting to evade sanctions against that country, and helping to sell arms and expand North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Cowie said the holding company was used for legitimate business and he was not aware of illicit transactions.[105]
On December 12, 2014, José Hawilla, the owner and founder of the Traffic Group, the Brazilian sports marketing conglomerate, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a four-count information charging him with racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Hawilla also agreed to forfeit over $151 million, $25 million of which was paid at the time of his plea.[498]
Central Bank of Cyprus officially declared: "With regard to press reports citing leaked documents, known as the Panama Papers, the Central Bank of Cyprus announces that it is assessing the information to the extent that it may concern the Cypriot banking system and taking, where necessary, appropriate action."[180] A Cypriot online paper said "The Cyprus link stems from the fact that Fonseca runs an office in Cyprus and, more specifically, in Limassol. In a chart, the leaks name Cyprus as a tax haven (countries that offer little or no tax), although it has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, the same as Ireland."[180]
Former Sudanese President Ahmed al-Mirghani was a client of Mossack Fonseca also.[454] Al-Mirghani lived in Egypt after the 1989 coup that ended his presidency and was active in the Democratic Unionist Party.[454] Orange Star Corporation bought a long-term lease in a tony London neighborhood near Hyde Park for $600,000 the same year al-Mirghani created it, and at the time of his death held assets worth $2.72 million.[454]
President of the Nigerian Senate Bukola Saraki was found, through the Panama Papers leak, to have ties to at least four offshore companies he failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau as Nigerian law requires.[463] His wife Toyin also had shell companies listed in her name in the Mossack Fonseca documents:[463] Girol Properties Ltd, Sandon Development Limited and *Landfield International Developments Ltd. Saraki has said that the assets in these holding companies belong to his wife's family and therefore he was not required to report them. ANCIR dismisses this because:
"The most obvious use of offshore financial centers is to avoid taxes", The Economist added.[32] Oxfam blamed tax havens in its 2016 annual report on income inequality for much of the widening gap between rich and poor. "Tax havens are at the core of a global system that allows large corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, "depriving governments, rich and poor, of the resources they need to provide vital public services and tackle rising inequality."[34]
Two years after the Panama Papers rocked the offshore financial system, a fresh document leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca reveals new financial details about an array of global elites, including soccer superstar Lionel Messi, the family of the Argentine president, and a former senior Kuwaiti official convicted of looting his country’s social security system.
In 1501 Rodrigo de Bastidas of Spain landed on the Caribbean side, discovering the Americas. Just a short 18 years later, 1500 Spanish settlers had established the oldest European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the Americas in what was called Panama Viejo, near the current Panama City. Finding that the two oceans were not far apart, conquistadors began transporting goods from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side in what became known as the El Camino Real or Royal Trail. This enabled two-way traffic of carts carrying treasures to go from sea to sea. In 1671 the famous pirate Henry Morgan burned down the original Panama City.
The documents contain personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials that had previously been kept private.[5] While offshore business entities are legal (see Offshore Magic Circle), reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were used for illegal purposes, including fraud, tax evasion, and evading international sanctions.[6]
President of the Nigerian Senate Bukola Saraki was found, through the Panama Papers leak, to have ties to at least four offshore companies he failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau as Nigerian law requires.[463] His wife Toyin also had shell companies listed in her name in the Mossack Fonseca documents:[463] Girol Properties Ltd, Sandon Development Limited and *Landfield International Developments Ltd. Saraki has said that the assets in these holding companies belong to his wife's family and therefore he was not required to report them. ANCIR dismisses this because:

Panama’s economy continues to grow, outdoing its neighboring countries. Between 2004 and 2013 the average GDP was 8.4%. The forecast is a promising one for Panama in 2018, with a prediction of the economy growing 5.5% and the GDP expects to expand 5.4% in 2019. The yearly income revenue from the Panama Canal just topped $1,650 million in 2017. With money in the government coffers, infrastructure projects sponsored by the government continue to be implemented, making Panama one of the leading countries in Central America in terms of infrastructure with good roads, bridges, parks, and sporting venues.


Panama City's public schools are operated by Bay District Schools. A system of charter schools, University Academy and Bay Haven Schools also services the Panama City area. Private schools in the city include, Holy Nativity Episcopal School, St. John Catholic School, Jacob Austin Prep. Academy, Covenant Christian School. Gulf Coast State College, formerly Gulf Coast Community College, is now a 4-year state college. Florida State University Panama City Campus and a satellite campus of Troy University are located in the city. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University has a satellite campus on Tyndall Air Force Base. Public high schools in the Panama City metro-area include Rutherford High School, Bay High School, Mosley High School, Arnold High School, Bozeman Learning Center, and Rosenwald High School.
In 2010, HOGL sold its 50 percent stake in Ugandan oil fields to Tullow Uganda for US$1.5 billion.[482] The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) applied a US$404 million capital gains tax on the transaction and HOGL refused to pay.[482] 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.[482] 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.[482]

Petroleum Minister José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos had power of attorney for an offshore company in 2002, when he became petroleum minister after previously being employed for a number of years as an executive at Sonangol,[439] according to the leaked documents. He denies wrongdoing.[441] ICIJ partner Le Monde says it has seen documents that show he was the proxyholder for Medea Investments Limited, founded in Niue in 2001, and moved to Samoa five years later. The company, which issued only bearer bonds, had a capitalization of $1 million, and closed in 2009.[439] He has never previously been accused of corruption.[442]

Initially, mainstream Russian media almost entirely ignored the leak. Neither state-owned Channel 1 and Rossiya 1, nor privately owned REN-TV and NTV, mentioned the story on April 4, the day the story broke.[249] The minimal coverage of the story ran in the middle of the night on Vesti TV and was in relation to Lionel Messi and Michel Platini.[250] An exception was the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, described as "the ICIJ's Russian partner", which reported on the story both in hard copy and online.[251]
Since the end of the 20th century, association football has become more popular in Panama.[citation needed] The top tier of domestic Panamanian football, Liga Panameña de Fútbol, was founded in 1988. The national team appeared at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2018, appearing in group G, facing Belgium, England and Tunisia. However, the team lost all three games, failing to advance past the group stage. Notable players for the national team include Luis Ernesto Tapia, Rommel Fernández, the Dely Valdés Brothers: Armando, Julio and Jorge; and more recent players as Jaime Penedo, Felipe Baloy, Luis Tejada, Blas Pérez, Román Torres and Harold Cummings.
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