There are more than twenty companies, currently operating in the Republic of Panama, who are distributing anonymous prepaid debit cards*, and which are not requiring the customers to properly identify themselves, or to disclose the Source of Funds. The cards are uploaded prior to delivery; there is no limit on the number of cards a user can acquire, and they can be redeemed literally anywhere in the world. The number of criminal, terrorist financing, and sanctions evasions uses for these cards is infinite.
Who owns these companies, and how did they obtain government approval to operate ? Some of the individuals involved are close relatives of senior government officials; others are known to have made substantial payments to corrupt officers in the relevant regulatory agencies. These illegal payments actually continue to be made after the necessary approvals are obtained. Employees at the card companies' local offices are also allegedly receiving illegal gratuities to approve these companies.
Why are anonymous prepaid cards such a major industry in Panama ? Inasmuch as a significant number of the parties involved are known to be Venezuelan nationals, (some of whom who have accounts at the Venezuelan banks with branches in Panama City), and their illicit purposes, and uses for these cards, include:
(1) Evading the global sanctions in place against Iran.
(2) Terrorist financing: criminal profits, earned by Hezbollah Venezuela, being transferred to Beirut.
(3) Funds obtained by corrupt Venezuelan Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs), being bribes, kickbacks, government money stolen from accounts, and money from padded government contracts.
(4) Narcotics profits.
Though complaints regarding some of these companies were filed with the appropriate Panamanian ministries in the past, investigations have not been conducted, and it is understood that certain corrupt officials were responsible for quashing all enquiries. These same officials are alleged to have received illicit compensation from operators of the anonymous card companies.
Likewise, though complaints were also lodged with senior local officers at the card companies, in Panama City, these were also dismissed out of hand, without any investigation.
Some of these anonymous card distributors are now believed to be under investigation in Panama City. When more information becomes, known, we shall update this story. If a bank customer attempts to give you a debit card that does not have his or her name imprinted upon it, make a copy of the card, decline to accept it, and immediately report it as a suspicious activity, to your regulator, and to bank counsel, who may choose to notify law enforcement.
* These cards are also known as Stored Value Cards.