A large number of law enforcement investigators from the United States have come into the Republic of Panama during the past two weeks, and their presence has disturbed those Panamanians who have something to hide. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and even the Securities & Exchange Commission, are in Panama, in numbers that have not been seen in recent memory.
Why the fear and loathing ? Although the new reform government has been fully engaged in the investigation of several different cases, involving corruption and insider trading, locals know that, due to Panama's inefficient, and notoriously corruption-riddled justice system, guilty parties may never go to trial, individuals who have been engaging in illegal activities are fearful that these American investigators will ultimately accumulate sufficient evidence to cause them to be charged in the United States. Thus, the threat of American prosecution represents a clear and present danger to them.
Though some in the Panamanian government have been notably less than cooperative with American investigators, their work appears to be proceeding at a rapid pace, especially the insider trading case involving Financial Pacific, Inc./Petaquilla Mining, where many Americans and Canadians were defrauded out of millions of dollars, and where many of the offenders were then senior members of the Cabinet of the former Panamanian President, Ricardo Martinelli, who also made illegal profits in that case. Several former ministers have had their visas to enter the United States revoked, and their crimes are believed to be the reason of those official actions.
Though it is rare that former leaders of foreign states have been charged in the United States with a crime, it is not unheard of. Martinelli's present location is not known, though he purchased an estate in Paraguay before leaving office.
The discomfort of those involved in illegal activity in Panama is increased by the fact that, unless and until those charged are in American custody, criminal indictments in Federal Court in the United States are sealed, and whether a specific individual is named cannot be verified, with any degree of assured accuracy, by their attorneys, for that reason. Certain Panamanians continue to be uncomfortable when they learn that still more US agents are on the streets of Panama City, and they wonder whether they will be in an American courtroom anytime soon.