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.
Many senior EU figures have been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. The European Commissioner for Taxation, Pierre Moscovici, has said that the European Union as a whole had a "duty" to prevent the kind of tax avoidance uncovered in the Panama Papers scandal. Moscovici told reporters the use of offshore companies to hide what he called "shocking amounts" of financial assets from tax authorities was "unethical". He estimated that the tax shelters resulted in an annual loss of some €1 trillion in public finances, adding that the European Commission has attempted to tighten tax rules across the union since November 2014 due to the Luxembourg Leaks scandal, also revealed by the ICIJ, and that he hoped the extent of the Panama Papers revelations would spur countries to action.
Leaked documents suggest that Mossack Fonseca helped tuna export company Borda Azul set up a shell company in the British Virgin Islands in order to avoid Costa Rican taxes. The firm, now out of business, was headed by Hermes Navarro, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation from 1999 to 2006. In the late 1990s the Finance Ministry and Prosecutor's Office investigated Borda Azul and other export companies for allegedly misusing tax credit certificates; in 1997 dozens of companies had been accused of using the certificates for fraud and to launder drug profits.
Tourism is one of the most important economic activities in terms of revenue generation. This sector of the economy has seen a great deal of growth since the transfer of the Panama Canal Zone at the end of the twentieth century. The number of hotel rooms increased by more than ten-fold, from 1,400 in 1997 to more than 15,000 in 2013, while the number of annual visitors increased from 457,000 in 1999 to 1.4 million in 2011. The city's hotel occupancy rate has always been relatively high, reaching the second highest for any city outside the United States in 2008, after Perth, Australia, and followed by Dubai. However, hotel occupancy rates have dropped since 2009, probably due to the opening of many new luxury hotels. Several international hotel chains, such as Le Méridien, Radisson, and RIU, have opened or plan to open new hotels in the city, along with those previously operating under Marriott, Sheraton, InterContinental, and other foreign and local brands. The Trump Organization built the Trump Ocean Club, its first investment in Latin America, in 2006 and it is the tallest building in the city. In 2018 it was renamed The Bahia Grand Panama following falling occupancy rates associated with the declining brand value of the Trump name. Hilton Worldwide opened a Hilton Garden Inn in El Cangrejo, and in 2013, The Panamera, the second Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Latin America.
^ 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 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. Notable players include Bruce Chen, Rod Carew, Mariano Rivera, Carlos Lee, Manny Sanguillén, and Carlos Ruiz.
Reporters sorted the documents into a huge file structure containing a folder for each shell company, which held the associated emails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents Mossack Fonseca had generated while doing business with the company or administering it on a client's behalf. Some 4.8 million leaked files were emails, 3 million were database entries, 2.2 million PDFs, 1.2 million images, 320,000 text files, and 2242 files in other formats.
Public education began in Panama soon after it seceded from Colombia in 1903. The first efforts were guided by an extremely paternalistic view of the goals of education, as evidenced in comments made in a 1913 meeting of the First Panamanian Educational Assembly, "The cultural heritage given to the child should be determined by the social position he will or should occupy. For this reason education should be different in accordance with the social class to which the student should be related." This elitist focus changed rapidly under US influence.
Three Mossack Fonseca companies started for clients of Helene Mathieu Legal Consultants were later sanctioned by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Pangates International Corporation was accused in July 2014 of supplying the government of Syria with "a large amount of specialty petroleum products" with "limited civilian application in Syria". The other two, Maxima Middle East Trading and Morgan Additives Manufacturing Co, and their owners Wael Abdulkarim and Ahmad Barqawi, were said to have "engaged in deceptive measures" to supply oil products to Syria.
Two men linked to Fidentia, a South African asset management company that looted 1.2 billion rand from pension funds meant to provide for 46,000 widows and orphans of mineworkers, had accounts with Mossack Fonseca, which was willing to help hide the money even after South Africa made their names public. The former chief executive of Fidentia, J. Arthur Brown, was sentenced in 2014 to concurrent 15-year sentences. 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. The other, Graham Maddock, was also later jailed in South Africa for fraud.
One year before the start of the California Gold Rush, the Panama Railroad Company was formed, but the railroad did not begin full operation until 1855. Between 1848 and 1869, the year the first transcontinental railroad was completed in the United States, about 375,000 persons crossed the isthmus from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and 225,000 in the opposite direction. This traffic greatly increased the prosperity of the city during that period.
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.).
Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, prime minister from 2007 to 2013, in 2002 acquired three shell companies incorporated in the Bahamas and another in the British Virgin Islands and through them moorage in Mallorca and a $300 million yacht named Al Mirqab. The Panama Papers indicate he owns or owned eight shell companies. Subsequent reporting by Forbes found that Al Thani bought $700 million in Deutsche Bank shares in 2014 through Paramount Services Holdings and in 2015 transferred roughly half the stock to Supreme Universal Holdings, owned by a relative who had left office as emir of Qatar, also in 2013.
The leak also revealed an extensive conflict of interest between a member of the FIFA Ethics Committee and former FIFA vice president Eugenio Figueredo. Swiss police searched the offices of UEFA, European football's governing body, after the naming of former secretary-general Gianni Infantino as president of FIFA. He had signed a television deal while he was at UEFA with a company called Cross Trading, which the FBI has since accused of bribery. The contract emerged among the leaked documents. Infantino has denied wrongdoing.
According to Forbes, "Hinojosa and other prominent Mexicans, mostly businessmen with close ties to the government, including at least one member of the Forbes billionaires list, were the subject of extensive articles published online by ICIJ investigation partners Proceso and Aristegui Noticias Sunday." Proceso also said that the Mexicans mentioned in the leaked documents included individuals linked to drug cartels.
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.
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.
King Salman is mentioned in the leaks in relation to two companies based in the British Virgin Islands—Verse Development Corporation, incorporated in 1999, and Inrow Corporation, incorporated in 2002. The companies took out mortgages totaling over US$34 million and purchased properties in central London. His role in the companies was not specified. BVI company Crassus Limited, incorporated in 2004, registered a yacht in London, named Erga after King Salman's palace in Riyadh. The vessel boasts a banquet hall and can comfortably sleep 30. King Salman is described in the documents as its "principal user".
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.