Panama is in the news, and not in such a good way. Panama, along with Miami, Spain, and Nicaragua, has long provided corrupt foreigners with an easy way to launder money.
“On Avenida Balboa, Panama City’s premier seafront avenue, the 50 story tower blocks form a near continuous wall of glass to the Pacific Ocean. At night, however, most of the luxury apartments remain in darkness and the basement casinos are eerily deserted.
Panamanian real estate was a favourite investment of the boliburgues,Venezuelans who grew rich on the back of their political connections to the late president Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro.
But in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal it has become increasingly hard to launder money through the country, cutting off a potential exit route for those looking to cut loose from Maduro’s embattled regime.”
The Panama Papers, in case you forget or were not up on the scandal, involved the leaking of millions of documents from a tony Panama law firm that revealed how dodgy lawyers help offshore entities hide their wealth and evade taxes in their home countries.
Oddly enough, the influx of Venezuelan money touched our recent trip to Panama. Pippa’s bar, on the beach at nearby Farallon, used to be a sleepy little place which offered cold beer or rum and Coke and simple food. Now the place is owned by a Venezuelan, and is expanding exponentially. You can get Thai shrimp, and a full bar menu. You have to pay $5 for parking. I don’t know that the new owner qualifies as a millionaire evading taxes, but he’s clearly a Venezuelan expat with a lot of money to spend.