Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Country Briefs: Panama

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Country Briefs: Panama

Article excerpt

Panama has been the center of attention for the world for over a month. Due to the recent exposure of the so-called Panama Papers, corruption and money laundering almost instantly come to mind when mentioning the Central American country. A Panamabased law firm, Mossack Fonseca, was targeted with multiple accusations that questioned the country's position worldwide and caused an international quagmire. Despite the accusations made against the country's integrity, the law firm's founder, a round of Panamanian economists and lawmakers, as well as the sitting President, Juan Carlos Varela, have extensively explained that the actions taking place in the scandal do not represent any illegality from Panama's end or any proof that Panama, as a whole, is a corrupted state. The Panama Papers have uncovered a method used by many corrupt officials and others to hide their illegal financial dealings.

The 11.5 million documents released exposed high profile official and various state leaders who resulted in being involved in corruption. As stated in an article published by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), on April 4, "Some of well-known and shocking names included in the files were the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri." The article also explains the concerns that the release of these documents represent for Latin America's democracy. The regional perspective of the Panama Papers was further analyzed in a second COHA article titled "Redirecting the Panama Papers," where the authors contend that, "Even though these Latin American governments are elected both democratically and legitimately, the exposure of the Panama Papers makes it possible to bring the required attention to reveal this systematic issue in the hemisphere as a whole."

In spite of the fact that many of the individuals involved are facing investigation, Panama remains the main target of international attention - and criticism. Its financial integrity and laws have been questioned, and the country has also been included in grey financial listing.

A second wave of scandalous events have affected the already harassed image of Panama when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released evidence that the prominent, Panama based, Waked family was linked to the Panama Papers corruption scandal and was labeled as major drug money-laundering organization on May 5, by the United States. The aforementioned family owns around 68 companies worldwide. In Panama, some of the most successful businesses owned by them include Grupo Wisa, media outlets such as La Estrella de Panama and El Siglo, as well as Vida Panama, situated in the Panama-Colon Free Zone. Most of thc exposed companies have declared the accusations to be misguided, and agreed to cooperate with any investigations that needed to be carried out.

Given the accusations of drug trafficking and money laundering, members of the Waked family have been arrested. …

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