An Open Letter to Panamanian President JC Varela - The Panama Papers

Mr. President –

Your country is a cesspool of financial crime, and your insistence otherwise, is total BS!

Look at what’s been going on for years.

In mid-2000, the so-called world’s money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published its “report on Non-Co-operative Countries and Territories,” adding 15 jurisdictions to its blacklist — Russia, Liechtenstein, Israel, Lebanon, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Dominica, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue (a phony offshore operation set up by sleazebag Panamanian lawyers Mossack and Fonseca), the Philippines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — and Panama.

Your country feigned shock and horror.

Several years later, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) piled on, describing Panama as an “uncooperative” tax haven.

Granted, whenever the FATF and the OECD bare their teeth, their dentures fall out.

But the response from Panama’s head of the financial analysis unit was not, “You’re right” (Because they were.) Or, “We agree, we need to change.” (Because you did then, and still do.)  But rather, “Panama cannot afford to have a bad reputation.”

Clearly he was wrong because that’s exactly what Panama has had ever since.

In the wake of the #PanamaPapers, you merely echo the same baloney, trying to convince the world that you and Panama have “zero tolerance” for financial crimes.

Coming from the country that brought the world General Noriega, the statement is laughable and, categorically, untrue.  You have colossal tolerance. You know, damn well, that modern Panama was built on, and is sustained by, dirty money.

Sure, I understand why you’re so desperate to pull the wool over the world’s eyes. Not only does your economy depend on it, but for the past 40 years, Panama has managed to fool just about everyone, including and especially the FATF and the OECD. That said, considering how easy it is to fool the FATF and the OECD, the fact that Panama was included on any of their lists is down to your nation’s naked venality.

The FATF and the OECD claimed Panama was uncooperative, so Panama did what Panama has always done – pretended to be cooperative. It works for the Swiss, why shouldn’t sleight of hand work for you?

Street corner whore that Panama is, you guys simply bought yourselves a bright new and shiny white wedding dress and, blushing on cue, said, look at us. Foolishly, the FATF and the OECD still believe in Tooth Fairies and Easter Bunnies. They removed your country from the black list. It was beyond their limited imagination that Panama would pass a few new codes that no one ever intended to enforce. That nothing changed. That nothing would change.

Secret banking. Phony shell companies. Lawyers out of control. Company formation agents out of control. And the Colon Free Trade Zone, the world’s largest pawn shop/fence, which is regulated by people who don’t believe in regulation because it would cost too many Panamanians too much money.

Face it, Panama is not a country, it’s a business.

And, in spite of  the bright new and shiny white wedding dress, practiced blushes and a few licks of fresh war paint, Panama is still the local street corner whore.

What could it matter to your law firms, and your financial institutions and your company formation agents that the offshore world has been aiding and abetting the war on drugs for more than 40 years? Or that the offshore world is the bulwark of transnational organized crime? Or that the offshore world is a haven for fraud-money, corporate corruption money, political corruption money and evaded taxes?

For that matter, what could it matter to anyone in Panama that the Free Zone is still a swamp where financial viruses breed ferociously, exactly the way mosquitoes did in the swamps that became the Canal.

The lawyers at the heart of this most recent fiasco, Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, have maintained their innocence. In 40 years, they point out, they have never been prosecuted for anything. Your close personal pal, Fonseca, has even likened the firm to kitchen knife makers. He says, as such, they cannot be held responsible if  some woman uses their knife to kill her husband.

What unadulterated crap.

How about the people who built the gas chambers and made the Zyklon B and sold it to the Nazis? Do they have a right to claim, but we weren’t the ones who murdered 6 million people?

Sorry Mr. President, but for the past 40 years, your country has been that financial cesspool. And yet, you shamefully insist that everything is all right, and that will get even better because you have “zero tolerance,” for financial crime.

Amigo, talk is cheap.

Until your judiciary indicts Mossack and Fonseca and everyone else in Panama who has, knowingly, unknowingly or otherwise – it doesn’t matter – aided and abetted financial crimes around the world, your legacy will be that of previous tinpot Panamanian politicians – just another stooge put in office to look the other way.

/ JR