Sunday, July 26, 2009

Decree allows easier entry for EU, US and UK residents

Executive Decree 248 of 2009 has been issued which eliminates the requirement of a visa for any permanent resident of the U.S., Australia, Canada, UK, and any of the European Union members. They will be able to enter the country with a US$30.00 tourist card, just like citizens of said countries currently do.

This decree resumably eliminates the need for citizens from Cuba, Middle East, most of Asia and all of Africa of a visa approved by the National Security Council before their entry.

The final text of the Decree can be downloaded in PDF files* from :

The full list of countries such as Cuba, Middle East, India, Pakistan, China, most of Asia and all of Africa which citizens require the National Security Council approval when they are not residents of U.S., Australia, Canada, UK, and any of the European Union members, appear in the PDF file* under the section LISTADO DE PAISES QE REQUIEREN VISAS AUTORIZADAS PARA INGRESAR AL TERRITORIO NACIONAL:
* (Yahoo registration required)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Retirement: Why Panama Is the New Florida

Murdock and Johnson on the beach near their home in San Carlos Jeffrey Salter/Redux

Michelle Conlin

Prospective retirees: Panama wants you. The pitch? A plane ride just 21/2 hours from Miami enables the newly poor to swap a wretched retirement in the U.S. for one befitting a royal in the balmy Central American nation. Cash out! Emigrate! Feel rich! Panama—the new Florida.
Spin aside, Panama is increasingly popular among retirement-age types looking to hedge against—or skip out on—the recession. The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that studies the movement of people around the world, says the chief factors prodding professional-class Americans to flock to Panama include its First World health care available at Third World prices and the country's pensioner program, which offers some of the deepest retiree discounts in Latin America. Seniors get up to half off on nearly everything, including movies, motels, doctors' visits, plane tickets, professional services, and electric bills. Expats also pay no tax in Panama on foreign income. Nor are they required to pay property tax for the first 20 years.
The fact that a luxe beachfront manse can be had for the same price as a dump in Daytona doesn't hurt, either. "We would have been looking at $3 million in Miami," says Jon Nickel of his 3,000-square-foot oceanfront penthouse in Panama City. Nickel and his wife, Gretchen, bought the place in late 2007 for $250,000, right after Nickel retired from his corporate law job in Portland, Ore., and sold the family's mortgage-free home for $800,000.
The skinny isthmus—nearly all coastline, with a mountain range slicing through the middle—boasts some of the best weather and lowest crime rates in Latin America. Other draws include guilt-free conspicuous consumption, with laughably low prices—by gringo standards—on splurges such as a day of beauty ($10) and a maid ($15 a day).


That's not to say life there suits everyone. Things in Panama movereallyslowly. A repairman who says he will be right over might show up days later. Water and electricity service can be spotty. In Panama City, drivers treat stop signs as a mild suggestion. "It takes a little bit of balls to retire here," says Matt Landau, a New Jersey native who is the founder of Panama City-based online portal The Panama Report. "This is not for type As. It's not your turnkey Florida retirement."
Still, boomers who have recently relocated to Panama say they feel as if they have figured out a successful geographic arbitrage. When Stephen Johnson and Linda Murdock were living in Aromas, Calif., they used to moan half-jokingly about how they'd have to retire to Barstow—the armpit of the Mojave Desert, with summers in excess of 100 degrees and winters that can dip below freezing.
Stephen, 63, retired as an executive of the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority in June 2008. His wife, Linda, 57, owned a dog-food business.

The pair had watched several friends retire on depleted cash cushions. Many weren't fully eligible for Medicare and wound up spending 50% of their income on health care. The couple's retirement agita was worsened by the fact that they got a late start building equity. "We bought our first house when I was 40 and Steve was 46," says Linda. "We knew we would never have our house paid for by retirement."
Over late-night pinot noir on their patio, they started talking about moving to a developing nation to stretch their money further. They had discovered Panama on a trip there in 2004 and saw it as a bargain-basement paradise. The low cost of living appealed to Steve, whose pension amounted to 40% of his pre-retirement income of $150,000. The surf-perfect weather lured Linda, who took up the sport on her 50th birthday.
Johnson and Murdock are now known as the gringos who live in the house with the red door. They bought their newly remodeled 1890 hacienda near the beach in San Carlos for $100,000 cash. They moved in last year and rented out their California ranch house. The rent covers the carrying costs on that house.
But Panama isn't only about the beach. The Boquete region in the mountains—Panama's answer to Boulder, Colo.—boasts loads of U.S.-style gated retirement compounds. The big draws of the area are tennis and golf. For those who are more interested in urban amenities, Panama City, which is by the sea, is sprouting yoga studios, bohemian boutiques, health-food stores, and artsy coffee houses.
Still, there are tradeoffs in this seemingly easy life. "Paradise is just a place you visit," says Johnson. "If you live here, you begin to see the cracks." Those include the three months it took them to get their driver's licenses—a process that involved blood tests, a hearing exam, and lines that make a U.S. Motor Vehicles Dept. seem like a fast-food joint.
But Johnson and Murdock have no major complaints, and Panama is certainly better than the Mojave. Murdock surfs—every single day—and says Johnson looks 20 years younger since retiring. They both love the way their dog can run on the beach without a leash and the fact that their doctors, many of them schooled in the U.S., happily give out their cell-phone numbers and actually answer when called. And their social life is far more active than it was in Aromas. They go out with new friends, a blend of expats and natives, almost daily, often for evenings of fish tacos and endless margaritas—for $20. "We have more time," says Johnson. "And apparently we have more money."

Conlin is the editor of the Working Life Dept. at BusinessWeek.
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UBS wins court stay: justice made or election payback?

Offshore providers elsewhere take note: big checks at election time may give relief from anti-tax haven measures...


Obama’s Double-Edged Sword
Guest Column By Paul R. Hollrah July 16, 2009
In a July 14th editorial titled "Picking on the Swiss," the Wall Street Journal criticizes the Obama Administration for attempting to require the Swiss Bank, UBS, to turn over to the IRS the names of some 52,000 US taxpayers who currently maintain secret accounts with the bank.
According to the Journal, "This sort of fishing expedition expressly violates the U.S.-Swiss treaty on sharing tax information. The original treaty dates back 30 years, and under the pact the Swiss regularly provide the IRS with information on specific cases. But what the IRS is attempting here is a mass search of U.S. taxpayers merely for banking in Switzerland."
In response, the Justice Department argues that "UBS systematically marketed its private banking services in order to avoid U.S. taxation," which, in fact, they did.
The Journal concludes, "Apart from the diplomatic ramifications, the government's request for so broad a swath of information could well run afoul of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search. The Obama Administration should use the court reprieve to rethink the whole case."
Actually, it is surprising that the IRS, currently supervised by Obama's tax-cheating Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, would actually pursue such information. The last thing that Obama needs is for U.S. authorities to have the names of UBS's American clients, a list that could then be compared with Obama's Federal Election Commission filings from the 2008 election.
Here's a bit of background, and why it represents a double-edged sword for Obama.
In a July 22, 2008 article in The Nation magazine, titled, "Attack of the Global Pirate Bankers," it was disclosed that Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas, had been "outed" in six months of hearings conducted by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, then chaired by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).
So, aside from being CEO of UBS's North American subsidiary, exactly who is Robert Wolf? Wolf is, along with the world's most evil man, George Soros, one of Obama's two top financial backers. He is also a highly influential member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors.
In it's article, The Nation tells us, "Last week in Washington we got a rare look inside the global private banking industry, whose high purpose it is to gather up the assets of the world's wealthiest people and many of its worst villains, and shelter them from tax collectors, prosecutors, creditors, disgruntled business associates, family members, and each other."
According to a Statement of Facts in the June 2008 criminal trial of former UBS executive Bradley Birkenfeld, UBS took significant steps to help American clients manage their Swiss accounts without alerting U.S. government authorities. For example, the Statement of Facts described how UBS advised American clients to withdraw funds from their accounts using Swiss
credit cards that "could not be discovered by U.S. authorities," to "destroy all off-shore banking records existing in the U.S.," and to "misrepresent the receipt of funds from their Swiss accounts... as loans from the Swiss bank."
The Nation reported that, "To achieve these results, UBS established an elaborate formal training program," which coached UBS bankers on how to avoid surveillance by U.S. Customs and law enforcement, how to falsify visas, how to encrypt communications, and how to secretly move money into and out of the U.S. undetected. It was, as I suggested in a July 28, 2008 column titled, "Who Owns Barack Obama," the perfect instrument for funneling illegal foreign contributions into the coffers of an ambitious and unscrupulous American politician.
I suggested, just for the sake of argument, that a billionaire international financier who wished to influence the outcome of the American presidential elections, could transfer unlimited sums of money through this device. A U.S. recipient, such as the Obama campaign, could receive hundreds of thousands of individual contributions via Swiss credit card transfers, with fictitious payees being entered by teams of paid staffers working in a "boiler room" setting. The owners of the Swiss accounts would receive periodic statements indicating: a) debits of varying amounts, up to $2,300 each, and b) offsetting credits provided by the wealthy, but unnamed, "international financier."

If some American taxpayers are hiding taxable income from the IRS through the use of a Swiss bank account, it's only fair that they be identified and punished. Every American taxpayer who pays his/her taxes in full would agree with that. However, if the United Bank of Switzerland is ultimately forced to turn over the names of its 52,000 American depositors, and those names are then compared with UBS credit card receipts received by the Obama campaign, there'll be hell to pay. It's a double-edged sword for Obama and it couldn't happen to a better guy.
Given the newsworthiness of the underlying story, the Wall Street Journal may wish to reevaluate its editorial stance. The uncovering of a few thousand tax cheats is small potatoes compared to the unearthing of the largest electoral
fraud in history... a fraud that facilitated the purchase of the presidency of the United States.

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with Robert Wolf, Chairman & CEO, UBS Group Americas, after signing an executive order establishing the new Economic Recovery Advisory Board as members of the Board gather around him in the East Room of the White House in Washington on February 6, 2009.

The skeleton in Obama’s money closet
By Judi McLeod Thursday, July 24, 2008
Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas, who has bundled more than $370,850 for Barack Obama so far this year, is one of the most embarrassing skeletons in BO’s money closet, now that the financial institution Wolf heads up in America has been outed in The Nation’s Attack of the Global Pirate Bankers.

“…This crowded docket, combined with the UBS mea culpa, almost distracted us from the sordid details of the Levin Committee’s actual findings,” investigative journalist James S. Henry, wrote in The Nation on Tuesday.

It’s not as if Wolf is just another number in the contribution side of the ledger paying for Obama’s race to the White House.

Among the groupies pushing Obama’s rock star-status, Wolf stands at the front of the line.

Wolf was “wowed” by the Senator from Illinois when he first met in December 2006. “He handed Obama his card and said, “I’d like to get to know you more.” (John Heilemann, New York Magazine, April 16, 2007). Obama phoned the next day. “When we hung up, he said, `I’ll call you after the holidays,’ and I’m thinking, Yeah, right, he’s gonna call me,” Wolf says. But call Obama did. The next week they had dinner in Washington, just the two of them, on the night that George W. Bush gave his speech announcing the surge of additional troops into Iraq. “I felt so honored to be sitting down with him for two hours on an occasion like that,” Wolf recalls, “knowing that he was going off to be interviewed on television later.”

“Within ten days, Obama had announced his intention to run and Clinton was officially in. A story in the Times reported that Obama had nailed two A-list New York donors: Soros and Wolf. But though Soros’s backing was a symbolic coup, it’s Wolf who has emerged as Obama’s most copious cash collector in the city so far—hosting two high-dollar cocktail parties, making countless calls, harvesting more than $500,000.

“As Wolf tells me about the soirees he’s hosted, he reaches into a meticulously organized scrapbook, takes out a photograph of him and Obama grinning madly, and tells me that I can keep it. “The way Barack has taken this nation with his rock-star status,” he says, “it’s very exciting!”

But Obama’s biggest New York groupie was nowhere around in last Thursday’s standing-room only hearing on tax haven banks and tax compliance held by the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Michigan Senator Carl Levin.

Wolf’s financial institution’s parent company UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank and the world’s largest private wealth manager, with $1.9 trillion in client assets and nearly 84,000 employees in fifty countries, including 32,000 in the United States, was one of two exposed in the results of the Congressional Committee’s six-month investigation.

It was not UBS’s most honorable corporate moment.

“The Statement of Facts in the Birkenfeld criminal case describes additional actions taken by UBS bankers to help U.S. clients manage their Swiss accounts without alerting U.S. authorities. It states, for example, that UBS bankers advised U.S. clients to withdraw funds from their accounts using Swiss credit cards that “could not be discovered by the United States authorities”, to “destroy all off-shore banking records existing in the United States”; and to “misrepresent the receipt of funds from the Swiss bank account in the United States as loans from the Swiss Bank.”440. The Statement of facts also discloses that, on one occasion, “at the request of a U.S. client, defendant Birkenfeld purchased diamonds using that U.S. client’s Swiss bank account funds and smuggled the diamonds into the United States in a toothpaste tube,” presumably so that the U.S. client could obtain possession of his Swiss assets without alerting U.S. authorities.441. It also states that Mr. Birkenfeld and his business associate Mario Staggl “accepted bundles of checks from U.S. clients and facilitated the deposit of those checks into accounts at the Swiss bank” and elsewhere, presumably to assist the clients in making transfers to their Swiss accounts, again without alerting U.S. authorities.442.

But wait a minute, didn’t Obama tell AP last April, “We’re proud of the fact that we were able to do this (collecting just $1 million less than rival Hillary Rodham Clinton’s record haul) without any money from federal lobbyists or PACs”?

And does find it mind boggling that Obama was one of three congressional sponsors of the new “bundling disclosure” provision in the Disclosure of Contributions “Bundled” by Lobbyists as a key provision in new Lobbying Disclosure Law to be interpreted and implemented by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC)?

From Attack of the Global Pirate Bankers, ˆ”In 2001, UBS had signed a formal “qualified intermediary” agreement with the US Treasury. Under this program, it agreed either to withhold taxes against American clients who had Swiss accounts and owned US stocks, or disclose their identities. However, when UBS’s American clients refused to go along with these arrangements, the bank just caved in and lied to the U.S. government. Eventually, it concealed 19,000 such clients, partly by helping to form hundreds of offshore companies. This cost the US Treasury an estimated $200 million per hear in lost taxes.”

Of the high fliers in the “utterly unprincipled global private banking industry”, Henry concludes: “They wield enormous political influence even without paying taxes, merely by making contributions, threatening to withhold them—or better yet, threatening to abscond with their capital unless certain conditions are met. In a sense, this is the ultimate libertarian pipe dream: representation without taxation. But it is a nightmare for the rest of us, and we must design and organize our way around it.”

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

2009 PWC Global Private Banking / Wealth Management Survey is now available

The 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Private Banking / Wealth Management Survey is now available:

The Global Private Banking and Wealth Management Survey 2009 was completed by 238 companies in 40 countries and gives a fascinating insight into the themes and trends impacting the world of wealth management as well as practical suggestions for actions wealth managers should be taking.

Reflecting the different aspects of a wealth management business, our Survey is split into six underlying sections covering: performance, client service, products and services, talent, operations and technology and risk management.

In our view, there are three underlying themes that will define the future of the private banking and wealth management industries:
The emergence of "Nouveau Classic" banking
Adaptation of business models, specifically the drive for process efficiency and improved service; and
Increasing political, fiscal and regulatory pressures.

This report will be followed by supplementary reports looking at specific aspects of the survey findings in more detail.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Birdwatching online in the Panama Canal

One of the Panama Canal inhabitants had a cameo appearance in the Canal webcam which can be seen in the At Panama - Soluciones' Home Page to Panama links

The webcam faces the ships crossing Miraflores locks and occasionally we get to see a gem such as a bird peeking into the camera lens. While Panama is known as the home of the harpy eagle which also crowns the national coat of arms, the harrier (or gavilan Circus buffoni) is very prevalent.

Support by private individuals and businesses is crucial to keeping these and other animals alive when faced with the end of their environment from increased construction. The following NGOs are recognized by the Panama Ministry of Economy as non-profit organizations and donations to them are tax-deductible when listed in :



Soluciones Home Page is part of the Panama Webring;id=15;prvw which also serves as a "collection of sites with information about Panama, everything from tourism, history, FAQs, photos, about our beautiful country in Central America."
Webring was bought back by its founders from the jaws of Yahoo! Geocities sites such as Soluciones are not so lucky, with Yahoo! deciding to turn off the sites on October 26, 2009.
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Congressman criticizes offshore centers, fails to disclose $75K foreign income

Edith Castillo in the local media quoted a press release by Charles Rangel (D-NY) where according to the Representative, “It will be difficult to adopt the trade protection treaty with the United States until Panama decides to eliminate its 'excessive practices in banking secrecy, regulate the financial sector and require banks and multinational subsidiaries to pay their fair share of taxes'." (See also SummaNews)

Now The New York Times reports that the congressman failed to disclose US$75,000 in income earned from a villa he owns in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. An audit is also looking into how the villa purchase was financed.

Obama Cracks Down on Tax Havens

Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, proposed a similar measure to limit the deductions of U.S. multinationals in 2007. But Rangel, a Democrat from New York, tied his proposal to lowering the overall corporate tax rate.
On Monday, he welcomed Obama's plan.
"For too long, our tax laws have rewarded companies that invest and keep their money overseas and turned a blind eye to the use of tax havens by the wealthy," Rangel said.
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Rangel Owes U.S. Back Taxes, Lawyer Says

Published: September 9, 2008
Representative Charles B. Rangel, chairman of the Congressional committee that writes the nation’s tax code, failed to pay an unspecified amount in federal taxes during the past five years on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Representative Charles B. Rangel is head of the House tax-writing committee.
Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, has owned the beachfront house at the Punta Cana resort and club since 1988, but never declared the $75,000 in rental income he has
earned either on his tax returns or on his Congressional financial disclosure form.
In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the minority leader, said the accumulation of ethical concerns involving Mr. Rangel had grown to a point where he “cannot effectively carry out his duties as chairman.”
“You, as the speaker of the House, must insist that Representative Rangel step down from his Ways and Means chairmanship pending an investigation of his ethical lapses,” Mr. Boehner said.

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