The Government of Panama has announced that it will no longer accept visa-free entry of individuals who hold multiple-entry visas from the European Union; they will be required to obtain Panamanian visas prior to their visit. The holders of visas from the UK, the USA and Australia, valid for at least one year, are still allowed visa-free entry. The change is claimed to be an effort to improve immigration controls.
Whether this is an effort to exclude individuals from the developing world, who engage in transporting financial instruments into Panamanian banks, for tax evasion or money laundering purposes, is not known. Add this to the recent refusal of Panamanian banks to open new accounts for foreign nationals, which some observers see as a possible response to the Panama Papers scandal, and it could represent a trend, towards the suppression of money laundering activity in the Republic. Some are pointing to the fine assessed, against Odebrecht, as an example of a sea change in Panama's policies.
Of course, to be truly effective, Panama will have to actually arrest, try and imprison offenders for money laundering offenses, which is not currently the case in Panama City, where bankers move dirty money with total impunity, working with both foreign money launderers, principally from Venezuela, and Panama's powerful Syrian organized crime syndicate.
Contributed by Kenneth Rijock
Journals of Monte Friesner