Secret, nonpublic branches of major international banks exist in Panama
MIAMI - The offices of two "closed door" banks have been identified at the Global Bank Tower, located on Calle 50, in downtown Panama City, as part of the underground aspect of Panama's banking structure.
One is a major international Swiss bank, UBS, a familiar name. The other is one of Canada's biggest banks, Royal Bank of Canada. Neither office is open to the public; they turn away any walk-in visitors, who may venture in without an appointment. One must pass security scrutiny in the lobby to gain admission. There are no names emblazoned on the office doors; only a low-key logo tells clients that they are in the right place, and not some anonymous Panamanian financial services firm.
They are not agencies, branches, or official representative offices of any kind, nor do they appear on any official list of licensed financial institutions, of any type or designation. Individuals who have been in these nonpublic offices have said that banking business is indeed regularly conducted there for clients.
So why is everything hidden? No licences mean that these "closed" facilities pay no taxes, nor licensing fees to the government of Panama. Exactly how are they permitted to remain open? While there is no ready answer, Panama is one of the most corrupt countries in Latin America, along with Venezuela and Haiti.
Whether there are other international banks operating under the radar in Panama City is not known, but where there's smoke, there's frequently fire.
By Kenneth Rijock
Kenneth Rijock is a banking lawyer turned-career money launderer (10 years), turned-compliance officer specialising in enhanced due diligence, and a financial crime consultant who publishes a Financial Crime Blog. The Laundry Man, his autobiography, was published in the UK on 5 July 2012.