A diverse multicultural city of almost 1.3 million, Panama City offers a lot more than an up-close view of the Canal. Shantytowns slink up alongside shiny high-rise condos. The Old City is an atmospheric labyrinth of churches, plazas and palaces. Fifteen miles from downtown Panama City, Soberania National Park is an excellent destination for hiking and birding. For a fascinating look at the canal, take a taxi or local bus to Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and look down on the traffic below.
Two great-grandchildren of the dictator Francisco Franco, Francisco and Juan José Franco Suelves set up registered societies in the British Virgin Islands through Mossack Fonseca. Juan José Franco opened Malini Investments in 1997, being director in 2012 and closed in 2013. He told the newspaper El Confidencial he was "absolutely ignorant". Francisco Franco Suelves, his older brother, also opened Vamfield Alliance Limited in 1997 as a director.
Getting to Panama City Beach is a cinch, thanks to its proximity to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP). The airport is only 20 minutes by car from the shimmering white sands that make Panama City Beach such a hotspot on the Gulf of Mexico. Here, you can catch sight of dolphins, go scuba diving amid shipwrecks, and explore the dunes and forests of St Andrews State Park.
In addition to the much-covered business dealings of British prime minister David Cameron and Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the leaked documents also contain identity information about the shareholders and directors of 214,000 shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, as well as some of their financial transactions. It is generally not against the law (in and of itself) to own an offshore shell company, although offshore shell companies may sometimes be used for illegal purposes.
"This is a unique opportunity to test the effectiveness of leaktivism", said Micah White, co-founder of Occupy, "... the Panama Papers are being dissected via an unprecedented collaboration between hundreds of highly credible international journalists who have been working secretly for a year. This is the global professionalization of leaktivism. The days of WikiLeaks amateurism are over."
The journalists on the investigative team found business transactions by many important figures in world politics, sports and art. While many of the transactions were legal, since the data is incomplete, questions remain in many other cases; still others seem to clearly indicate ethical if not legal impropriety. Some disclosures – tax avoidance in very poor countries by very wealthy entities and individuals for example – lead to questions on moral grounds. According to The Namibian for instance, a shell company registered to Beny Steinmetz, Octea, owes more than $700,000 US in property taxes to the city of Koidu in Sierra Leone, and is $150 million in the red, even though its exports were more than twice that in an average month in the 2012–2015 period. Steinmetz himself has personal worth of $6 billion.
On April 15, 2016, José Manuel Soria was forced to leave his post as acting Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism when the Panama Papers revealed that he and his family had maintained several offshore societies on tax havens during the previous decades. Soria initially denied this, but reports kept leaking that contradicted him. On April 14, a company came to light that he had owned on Jersey until 2002, while mayor of Las Palmas. Soria was put in a critical political position as a result of his confusing and changing explanations on the issue, and resigned the next day.
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.
Former Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal was a director or shareholder in four holding companies and was active in two after she took office. Her husband owns another seven. The companies were used for real estate transactions in Britain. Rawal and her husband were shareholders and directors of Highworth Management Services, where Ajay Shah, a former director of Trust Bank, was also a shareholder and director. The Central Bank of Kenya ordered Shah's assets auctioned to repay depositors after Trust Bank collapsed, but he went into hiding and the assets have not been recovered.
DCB Finance, a Virgin Islands-based shell company founded by North Korean banker Kim Chol-sam and British banker Nigel Cowie, 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, 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.
^ 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.
The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) has said that "serious deficiencies" exist in how Nordea monitors for money laundering, and had given the bank two warnings. In 2015 Nordea had to pay the largest possible fine—over five million EUR. In 2012 Nordea asked Mossack Fonseca to change documents retroactively so that three Danish customers' power of attorney documents would appear to have been in force since 2010. The director for Nordea Private Banking, Thorben Sanders, has admitted that before 2009 Nordea did not screen for tax evaders: "In the end of 2009 we decided that our bank shall not be a means of tax evasion," said Sanders. Other Swedish banks are also present in the documents, but Nordea occurs 10,902 times and the next most frequently mentioned bank only occurs 764 times. The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FI) later said that they would also investigate the other three big banks in Sweden: Handelsbanken, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) and Swedbank.
The US on the other hand refused to sign on to the Common Reporting Standard set up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, alongside Vanuatu and Bahrain. This means the US receives tax and asset information for American assets and income abroad, but does not share information about what happens in the United States with other countries, which in other words means that the United States has become attractive as a tax haven.
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. But instead the disclosure requirement has simply meant new business opportunities for money launderers.
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. 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).
Since the end of the 20th century, association football has become more popular in Panama. 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.