Thursday, January 29, 2009

Panama removed from Russian black list

Until recently the government of Russia had imposed a series of restrictions on financial transactions involving Panama, because mobsters and tax evaders in the former country were known to hide their assets here. But as part of Russia joining the World Trade Organization, a bilateral accord between Russia and Panama that deals with many of these concerns has been signed and Russia has removed this country from its financial transactions blacklist. The agreement also contains a merchant marine clause that eliminates special surcharges and coast guard inspections for Panamanian-flag ship calling at Russian ports, which were imposed because of concerns about unseaworthy vessels registered in this country posing hazards in Russia's waters.

Source: Panama News Volume 12, Number 7 April 9 - 22, 2006

Panama has been removed from the blacklist of the Russian Central Bank. The list, first published in the second half of the 90s, contained those jurisdictions whose financial transactions were deemed by the Central Bank to be worthy of special attention from the Russian banking sector.

The removal from the list comes as a result, at least in part, of the bilateral arrangements and agreements concluded between Panama and Russia. Samuel Lewis Navarro, Panama’s foreign minister, achieved similar results in his meetings in France, with Panama also being removed from the blacklist drawn up by the French tax authorities. This gesture by the French was aimed at helping French enterprises operating in Panama, particularly in regard to the expansion of the Panama Canal.

But what exactly are these blacklists really? As the name suggests, certain state organisations or national bodies draw up lists of offshore jurisdictions whose legislation and legal practices they consider harmful to their own country or region. The main objection raised against the offshore jurisdictions is that they siphon off capital, or rather taxation income, from countries which typically have very high rates of taxation. To defend against this, the aim of the lists is to create a kind of discrimination, or “deterrent”. Public opinion can generally be swayed by the notoriety of the lists, leading clients to think seriously about whether it is worth establishing a company in a blacklisted jurisdiction, or rather avoiding such complications.

The most serious sanction, however, is when the country using the list introduces concrete financial steps. For example, they may not allow, or may impose conditions on, certain bank transfers. The other important area of sanctions is where local companies who, say, pay invoices from blacklisted jurisdictions, may be subjected to more stringent inspections. If, for example, a German company includes in its accounts an invoice for consultancy services from a company in Liechtenstein, this may be enough for the authorities to instigate a full tax inspection of the German company for the last 5 years.

Source: Laveco

Canciller panameño rinde informe de exitosa gira de trabajo por Europa.

Panamá, 7 de mayo de 2007.
El primer vicepresidente y ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, Samuel Lewis Navarro rindió un informe sobre la reciente gira oficial a Europa que abarcó Roma, Paris, Madrid y Moscú....

Lewis Navarro dijo que “Francia ha determinado no aplicar medidas discriminatorias con nuestro país y contra empresas panameñas de ningún tipo y para esto estamos a la espera de una confirmación por escrito de los términos de esta información ”.

En cuanto a Italia y España hemos logrado establecer un mecanismo de consulta de los equipos técnicos, de manera que podamos abordar el tema de listas de países que llevan una serie de medidas discriminatorias contra empresas nacionales, informó el canciller panameño.

El primer vicepresidente y ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, Lewis Navarro indicó que “con Rusia hemos logrado reiterar y hacer oficial el retiro de la llamada lista negra en que nos mantenían”.

Rusia estudia crear en Panamá centro logístico energético regional
Agencia EFE. Desde Moscú, Rusia. mayo 4, 2007
El canciller de Panamá, Samuel Lewis Navarro, aseguró que ha abordado con las autoridades rusas la creación en territorio del país canalero del primer centro logístico energético regional.

Durante su visita, las partes firmaron un convenio de cooperación para promover el turismo en ambas direcciones, mientras Rusia excluyó a Panamá de la lista negra de paraísos fiscales

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Allied charities join Lucom fight

The Sisters of Mercy, the SOS villages, the San Jose de Malambo Orphanage, Nutrehogar, the Ciudad de Niño and the Fundacion Pro Niños de Darien have joined together to form the Fundacion de Apoyo a los Niños Pobres de Panama. This was done in anticipation that Hilda Piza (viuda de Lucom, and before that de Arias) and her children will lose their challenge to the Wilson Lucom will, which is now pending in the Supreme Court. Lucom, a very wealthy man, left millions to his widow but the large residue of his estate to the poor children of Panama. Piza and especially her children by a previous marriage --- most notably Gilberto Arias of EPASA, the company that owns La Critica and El Panama America --- have challenged the will and, largely through attorney Héctor Infante, have fought vicious legal battles in Panama and the United States. These have concentrated on Richard Lehman, the Florida attorney appointed by Lucom as his will's executor, against whom bogus murder charges were brought, groundless arrest warrants were issued and an arrest order on a warrant that didn't exist was put into INTERPOL's international database. The case has become an emblem of corruption with impunity in the Panamanian legal system. The Supreme Court recently slapped down a detention order that Infante obtained against Lehman and the contest on the will itself is now pending before the court. The creation of the charitable alliance distances Lehman from the controversy, as the Piza / Arias family is basing their challenge on the supposition that he's a crook who's out to loot the fortune. Now it would be the charities rather than Lehman in charge of how the bequest is spent. Sister Lourdes Reiss of the San Jose de Malambo Orphanage heads the new foundation and has expressed confidence to the competitors of the Arias family's newspapers that the Lucom bequest will be upheld in court.

Volume 15, Number 1 January 22, 2009
Full text in http://www.thepanama/

The charity is called FUNDACION DE APOYO A LOS NIÑOS POBRES DE PANAMA. Its Foundation Council is formed by:

Orfelinato San Jose de Malambo
Asociacion Religiosos Mercedarios
Fundacion Pro-Niños del Darien
Asociacion de Aldeas Infantiles SOS de Panama
Asociacion Nacional Pro Nutricion Infantil
Patronato de la Ciudad del Niño

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Outlook stable for Panama bank

Banco General, S.A., is controlled by holding company Empresa General de Inversiones (BVP: EGI).

Fitch Affirms Banco General's Ratings; Outlook Stable

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fitch Ratings has affirmed Banco General's (Panama) ratings as follows:

--Foreign Currency Long Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at 'BBB';

--Foreign Currency Short Term IDR at 'F3';

--Individual Rating at 'C';

--Support Rating at '5';

--Support Floor at 'NF'.

The Rating Outlook is Stable.

The rating of Banco General's US$150 million issue maturing in 2010, formerly obligations of Banco Continental, is affirmed at 'BBB'.

Banco General's (BG) ratings reflect its strong local franchise, market share, strengthened competitive position, consistent strategy, dependable performance, good portfolio quality and sufficient capital. They also factor in the worsening economic scenario and the increasingly competitive landscape.

A long-standing dollarized economy, Panama lacks a central bank or lender of last resort. Banco Nacional de Panama, the largest state controlled bank, could only provide temporary liquidity loans - if needed. In Fitch's opinion, external support for BG, although possible, cannot be relied upon.

Near-term potential for upside rating movement is limited given the worsening economic scenario. Should portfolio quality or capitalization deteriorate, they could put downward pressure on the ratings; however, Fitch considers these events unlikely in the short run.

BG successfully merged with Banco Continental (BC), integrating its customers, employees and products in less than nine months. BG's management focused its resources on the merger, providing clear direction to the enlarged franchise while achieving most financial goals. The bank emerges well positioned to compete with local and regional players.

BG showed a strong performance in 2007 and into 2008 with resilient margins underpinning interest revenues in spite of only modest loan portfolio growth; non-interest revenues increased their contribution to operative revenues. Costs remained well under control while credit cost stabilized, resulting in improving efficiency and sustained performance in terms of profitability.

The loan portfolio improved its diversification, concentration and asset quality with Past Due Loans (PDLs) reaching what could be their lowest point and reserves comfortably covering the troubled portfolio. The level of related party lending has declined but remains somewhat high when compared to its peers; some additional improvement is expected. Deposits are broad-based, well diversified and show a healthy growth that contributes to lower funding cost. After the natural decline due to the merger, capital improved largely thanks to retained earnings; the BIS capital ratio stood at 17.1% at September 2008.

Going forward, margins are expected to remain under pressure while profitability should come more from cross-sell and efficiency than from asset growth. Costs should stabilize and portfolio quality is expected to decline (i.e. provisions should increase) but remain within reasonable levels. Overall, in Fitch's view, the bank should remain profitable.

Banco General is Panama's second largest private bank. After a consistent growth strategy that involved strong organic growth and strategic acquisitions, BG further cemented its position by merging with BC in September 2007. BG holds about 12.7% of the system's assets and is controlled by BG Financial Group Inc., which is in turn controlled by Empresa General de Inversiones (61%) and 490 independent shareholders registered at the Bolsa de Valores de Panama, S.A. (39%).