Three former Panama presidents are among at least 336 politicians from 90 countries named the Pandora Papers bombshell released on Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Named are: Ernesto Pérez Balladares (1994-1999), Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019).
The Panama government fears that the disclosure of documents linked to alleged secret accounts linked to local firms will further affect the reputation of the country.
The new disclosure is based on 11.9 million documents, about accounts and companies in some thirty jurisdictions, including Panama, supposedly used to hide money and evade the payment of taxes, among other activities. The consortium obtained the documents and shared them almost two years ago with more than 600 journalists from some 150 organizations in 117 countries.
The 336 politicians are distributed among 12 firms, among which there are several Panamanians reports La Prensa 161 would-be clients of the Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal) law firm and 97 of the Trident Trust. The rest is divided as follows: Asiaciti Trust (25), OMC Group (21), SFM (18), DADLAW (17), Alpha (11), Fidelity (10), AABOL (8), Commence BVI (4), Cititrust (3) and GDG (2). Alcogal and OMC Group (Overseas Management Corporation) are Panamanian.
According to a note from the ICIJ, more than 2 million of the 11.9 million confidential documents are from Alcogal (more than 3 million correspond to Trident), with information on more than 14,000 offshore companies from Panama, Belize, and British Virgin Islands (BVI,)) and other jurisdictions created by Alcogal for more than 15,000 clients around the world, the majority since 1996.
Alcogal replied that the information disclosed by the ICIJ is "inaccurate, outdated and projects a wrong image about the activities of our firm."
“Our internal audit did not find any evidence of non-compliance in any of the cases mentioned by the ICIJ. In fact, since our founding in 1985, we have never faced charges related to improper activities, much less have we been convicted of any type of illegal activity in the jurisdictions where we work,” the firm said in a statement on Sunday.
The ICIJ refers to a letter from Alcogal in which the firm assures it that the incorporation of companies is only one aspect of the portfolio of legal services it offers and that it complies with all the legal requirements in each of the jurisdictions in which it operates.
The leak of documents takes place two days after it was announced that on September 16, the Panamanian government sent a note to the ICIJ, given the possibility that the investigation may damage the name of the country, as already happened in 2016 with the Panama Papers, on the activities of the now-defunct firm Mossack Fonseca.