Wednesday 19th April 2023.

April 18, 2023


The primaries of the opposition Panameñista Party will be held on Sunday, July 23, therefore, the application period for the different positions began last Monday, April 17, and will run until the 26th of this month.

The current representative of the corregimiento of Don Bosco, Guillermo Willie Bermúdez, has already announced that on April 24 he will run to compete for the candidacy for mayor of Panama. One of his contenders could be the deputy of the National Assembly, Elías Alberto Vigil Pérez, who represents the 8-10 circuit in the Legislative.

On April 14, the National Elections Commission of the Panameñista Party sent a note to the National Bank of Panama to certify that Vigil Pérez is carrying out the procedures to open a bank account where he will manage all the resources related to the campaign for his candidacy for mayor of Panama.

Agreement 002 of March 28, 2023, of the Superintendency of Banks of Panama states in its article 1 the following:

“ARTICLE 1. ADDITION. Article 3-A is added to Agreement No. 005-2011 of September 20, 2011, as follows: “ARTICLE 3-A. INTEGRITY OF SHAREHOLDERS, MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND KEY PERSONNEL. Banking entities and the owner of bank shares of banks whose supervisor of origin is this Superintendency must ensure that their shareholders, members of the board of directors, senior management and key personnel of the entity have at all times recognized suitability, reputation, moral and economic solvency, regardless of the nature, complexity and risk profile of the entity. For such purposes, banking entities and the owner of bank shares of banks whose original supervisor is this Superintendency must adopt integrity policies, procedures and control mechanisms approved by the board of directors that, continuously, allow them to identify, evaluate and monitor the reputation, moral and economic solvency of their shareholders, members of the board of directors, senior management and key personnel, as well as any person natural or legal legally linked to any of these. The foregoing in order to mitigate the risks that may affect the continuity of the bank’s operation or put its depositors’ funds at risk, and that may affect the stability, sustainability, reputation, and security of the bank, the banking group, or the banking system.. In the event that its shareholders, members of the board of directors, senior management and key bank personnel do not comply with the integrity criteria defined in its policies, as the case may be,

Based on this mandate, a local bank reformed its articles of incorporation and proceeded to redeem the minority shares of a family group. This situation, which should be completely normal in a country with a modern capitalist economy, has led to claims of all kinds that deserve to be addressed.

The most important thing to note is that the bank acted in accordance with a regulation of the institution that is legally in charge of supervising this sector. This means that the bank did not behave arbitrarily or capriciously. As Panama adopts more international standards, these kinds of requirements and others like them will become more common.

The second aspect is the reputational risk of the banking institution and the possible damage to the Panamanian financial system. In the last decade Panama has had to face a serious shockinstitutional development in its financial sector, which included the Panama Papers scandal, the inclusion of members of the Waked family on the Clinton List, the transition of Banco Universal, the adoption of fiscal transparency and financial information exchange regulations, and of course , the judicial prosecution of the biggest corruption scandals that the country has experienced and that have money laundering as their central axis. All the players in the banking system are well aware of this and understand better than anyone the risk that another scandal represents and the impact that it could have on their shareholders, their depositors, and on the banking system. The country’s economy is very precarious and would be hit hard by another scandal in the financial sector. Given this, the bank acted properly and responsibly.

Let’s imagine that a minority shareholder of a Panamanian bank is declared “corrupt” by the United States government. That businessman and head of the family faces criminal charges for money laundering in Panama, and other legal cases abroad. That bank that has you as a shareholder will be receiving comments from foreign correspondent banks, other investors, risk rating agencies, and even the occasional casual conversation with an official from a three-letter agency of the United States government. The board of directors of that bank cannot assume the risk of appearing named on such a serious list, or being influenced in some type of judicial or administrative resolution that turns the bank into a financial hermit.

What is truly scandalous about the situation is that it was not until March 28, 2023 that a Panamanian authority demanded a semblance of integrity in the corporate governance of market entities. If this regulation had been part of the Public Limited Companies Law or the Banking Center’s constitutive regulation, many headaches would have been avoided. The fact that the norm appears so late does not detract from its merit, much less the justification that it is extremely necessary. Now, it is necessary to hope that other regulatory entities, such as the Electoral Tribunal, adopt a similar standard.

The document that will serve as the basis for the first debate on bill 625 that creates the asset forfeiture jurisdiction, a text that emerged from five technical roundtables in which deputies from the Government and Constitutional Affairs Commission of the National Assembly participated , their advisors, lawyers, civil society and personnel from the Public Ministry and the Judiciary, put an end to the figure.

Article 30 of the draft of the project, in addition to establishing the powers that the domain forfeiture prosecutor will have to investigate, proposes that the figure will apply as long as no more than 20 years have elapsed from the acquisition of the assets, except those related to terrorism or its financing, which do not have an expiration term.

The term to apply the law based on a catalog of 11 crimes in which corruption does not appear, was one of the issues that generated the most debate and controversy at the technical table. Well, the original document, that is, the bill presented by the Ministry of Public Security in April 2021, proposed that the crimes associated with the extinction of domain do not prescribe.

Leah Cedeño de Boersner, vice president of the Fundación Espacio Cívico, and who participated in the technical tables, believes that the ideal scenario was for all crimes to be included and not to prescribe. “In the original document there was talk of non-prescription, but after several workshops the Ministry of Security then proposed a term of 30 years. They wanted to find a point of consensus (…). What is certain is that in the other countries where it has been done, political management did not allow the law to be imprescriptible, except in Colombia, which finally did. In all of this, a political issue is denoted with political reasons for which they obviously do not want the “imprescription”, she said.

While the lawyer Ariel Corbetti, another of those who actively participated in the technical tables, agrees with Cedeño de Boersner, in the fact that the prescription was one of the great concerns and objections of the sectors. He explained that everything is linked to the nature of public order and the retroactivity that they wanted to give to the asset forfeiture regime.

“That it has support for 20 years, is a term that the Constitution provides for the extinction of the actions. So I think that there was a positive advance on this issue, ”he said.

The Authority for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (Ampyme) invoked Law 81 of 2019, on the Protection of Personal Data, to prevent the identity of the beneficiaries and the amount of non-reimbursable assistance granted in the current government from being known.

When a Habeas Data was filed, the Supreme Court supported the Ampyme. The Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu), copied the example and hid the identity of the beneficiaries and the amount of its generous financial aid program.

The new Law 351 of 2022, which amended the Organic Law of the Comptroller General of the Republic, turned the audits of that entity into an arbitrary decision, and removed legal responsibility from the Comptroller’s own officials for everything they sign. and support. Taking advantage of the climate of opacity, the Customs Authority decided that the information on the cost of an imported car is secret.

All these facts are combined with the decision to exclude corruption offenses from the asset forfeiture bill. According to the deputy Corina Cano, to different media, corruption is already pursued in other ways. If one takes into account that this is the country of the “ideal evidence” as a prerequisite to try a deputy, the result is a panorama full of obstacles to justice and transparency, avoiding accountability.

Corruption is a widespread tax that is paid by the entire society, and that translates into a permanent lack of medicines, terrible conditions of public infrastructure, shortage of drinking water, inadequate conditions of the educational system, and in general an inefficient and incapable public administration. to take care of everyone’s property.

The prosecution of crimes and practices linked to corruption is complex and politically uncomfortable. In the absence of an investigative capacity of the Public Ministry (MP), the prosecution of crimes related to corruption depends on other instances. For example, in Panama, it is insisted that the fundamental proof of embezzlement is an audit by the Comptroller, but now with Law 351 of 2022, these audits are done at the discretion of the comptroller on duty, who can stop them at any time. By the way, that same Law dealt a hard blow to the jurisdiction of accounts, since it exempts a lot of public servants from responsibility, who should monitor what is done with State funds, as well as individuals who manage these funds. .


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