PANAMA CITY: Panama has a new tourist attraction: the building hosting the offices of the Mossack Fonseca law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers scandal.
That is why, workers there say, the sign announcing the firm has been taken down from where it used to be outside the dark-tinted edifice in Panama City’s modern banking district. Too many tourists were stopping to take selfies in front of it.
Despite the fallout and sudden notoriety from the Panama Papers revelations, and the detention of its two partners on money laundering charges linked to a vast Brazilian bribery case, Mossack Fonseca is continuing its four-decade-old business.
The firm’s staff has been decimated, however. Before the scandal, the firm employed 600 people across the world.
A year later, that has been cut by two-thirds.
These papers linked some of the world’s most powerful leaders to unreported offshore companies.
Panamanian prosecutors are investigating the Panama Papers, although no one has been convicted yet.
“There was no money laundering. Only establishing companies within the limits of the law,” the lawyer representing Mossack Fonseca, Marlene Guerra, said.
“While we are talking about what happened, the rest of the companies in Panama and in the world are continuing as before. We consider this to be selective justice,” she said.
Clients flee: According to Guerra, 70 percent of Mossack Fonseca’s wealthy clients have left for the United States.
With the lucrative Panama Canal, Latin America’s highest growth of over five percent in 2015, and a dollarized economy based on services that accounts for 83 percent of gross domestic product, the country is keen to minimize the reputational damage from Panama Papers.
“Panama Papers didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know,” the finance minister, Ricardo Zubieta, said recently.
“Not a single dollar” invested in the offshore companies “are in Panama — they are in banks in Britain, Miami, New York,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2017