Saturday, June 4, 2016


Money laundering cases in the Republic of Panama are extremely rare, and one of the very few pending cases was abruptly closed, under circumstances that confirm corruption, rather than the rule of law, was the determining factor. Of course, we should not be surprised, given the rampant corruption present at all levels of the country's criminal justice system.

The case was filed back in 2009, when a traffic stop yielded a million dollars in cash, being transported by an individual with a criminal record. Although the money tested positive for methamphetamine, the Court has now, seven years later, entered a judgment of acquittal, holding that there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

Exactly why the case was still pending after seven years is the story of Panama's corrupt judicial system. The lawyers for the parties to any case, be it civil or criminal, typically approach their client, and assert that a $100,000 bribe will fix the case in their favor. How much of that money finds it way to the judge is anyone's guess, for low-paid government prosecutors are known to own multi-million dollar homes, and some civil cases are stuck in the Supreme Court of Justice for years, without a ruling.

Candidly, when advising a customer, or client, regarding the feasibility of investing in Panama, opening a business, or extending substantial credit, the fact that courts are generally not going to afford you relief, should you have a valid cause of action, should be a determining factor in any decision about operating in Panama, at any level.

 Was the defendant guilty ? He reportedly failed to prove that his meager legal income could justify the $1m that was seized. Who bribed the judge/prosecutor/secretary/court clerk ? Maybe they were all paid off.  

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