Friday, July 10, 2015


Statistics released by Panama's immigration agency shows that over 6000 foreign nationals, primarily from Venezuela and Colombia, have received residency papers, as of June 10, 2015, in exchange for a reported $1m fee. What's the problem, you ask ? It seems that the cash-strapped Government of Panama is accepting cash, in US dollars, and is not asking the applicants to show either Source of funds, or prove that they are engaged in a lawful occupation.

Of the 6,320 applications approved, 1910 came from Venezuelan nationals; 948 from Colombia. That's over 45% of the totals. Given that US Dollars are next to impossible to obtain in Venezuela, due to strict currency controls, and the crashing Bolivar, you can figure out where the cash is coming from: illegal activity, principally drug trafficking; much is the same situation in Colombia.

Reliable sources in Panama explain that the residency program is not advertised abroad, and I am personally aware of a number of individuals, with dodgy backgrounds, who now are lawful permanent residents of the Republic of Panama. Obviously, month talks here, especially a box full of cash.

The compliance aspect: when you see a Colombian or Venezuelan national seeking to open an account at your bank, and he advises you that he is a legal resident of Panama, and therefore in a low-risk jurisdiction, you may want to look into exactly how he could afford the one million dollar fee Panama charges. Does his stated occupation support such liquid wealth ? Most likely not; Decline to onboard him as a bank client.

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