"As you can imagine, Panama’s national bank, through a politically connected law firm, in cahoots with an international money launderer and swindler facilitating a debit card scheme founded by a dead person would not be such great news in the current constellation of warnings by rating agencies about Panama’s investment grade."
This morning, your editor was served with legal paperwork from the juzgado tercero de circuito de lo civil del primer circuito judicial de Panama - paperwork to the effect that Financiera Pronto Cash, S.A. has sued us for a million dollars. Why, you ask? Well, Pronto Cash sells MasterCard debit cards issued by the Banco Nacional, and we wondered if one of the presidents of Pronto Cash, one Lawrence Heath, was in fact for real, or if there had been a case of identity theft again. Pronto Cash is one of the companies serial convicted fraud artist Monte Friesner owns in Panama, and we had already caught him using the identity of a dead person as the founder of his schemes.
So, we inquired with MasterCard's fraud department about Pronto Cash. And they replied that "We will forward this information to the appropriate department for further investigation". And thus your Bananama Republic duly reported that MasterCard was now investigating Pronto Cash. That report, in turn, has caused Pronto Cash to file a lawsuit, because they claim it is damaging them.
In the lawsuit, they ask the court to hear Monte Friesner and his wife Tatiana Nazarova as witnesses. Nazarova is the other president (she really seems to exist) and treasurer of Pronto Cash. Friesner owns (part of) the company, and signs his Pronto Cash emails with "Consules Missi, SOCIETE CORE [sic!] DIPLOMATIQUE - DIPLOMATIC SOCIETY, Senior Advocate & Consulaire", thus falsely pretending to be some sort of diplomat.
The law suit comes on top of a wacky criminal complaint for crimes against the honor, filed by Friesner personally against yours truly, Friesner's ex-wife, his son and his former webmaster. In it, Friesner alleges a conspiracy to blackmail him, and he later added allegations to the effect that your editor and the webmaster ordered his poodle to be killed. Seriously.
In no normal country a foreign fraud artist, with a string of convictions for anything from arson and assault to embezzlement, theft and money laundering, would be taken seriously by the public ministry or the judiciary if he filed complaints that more than anything else prove his own insanity. But here in Panama, Friesner appears to enjoy political protection.
On the Pronto Cash about us page, the principals of the company are listed together with Blandon & Young as its corporate law firm ("Bufete Corporativo"). In the public registry, lawyer Herbert Young appears as the registered agent of Pronto Cash. That in itself doesn't prove much, but the ties are a bit stronger than just that of the registered agent and go in fact far beyond just that of a client and his attorney: Young's wife, Mrs. Rita Moreno Pretto de Young, is also president of yet another Friesner enterprise, Swiss-Hannover. Then, Mrs. de Young's daytime job is with....... Banco Nacional, where she works for the gerencia ejecutiva, banca de consumo. And to top it off, Herbert Young is also a shareholder of Pronto Cash, thus having a direct stake in the outcome of frivolous lawsuits against us.
We asked Mrs. Rita Moreno by email if she played any sort of role in getting Banco Nacional to issue MasterCards through Friesner's Pronto Cash, but have not received a reply. As you can imagine, Panama's national bank, through a politically connected law firm, in cahoots with an international money launderer and swindler facilitating a debit card scheme founded by a dead person would not be such great news in the current constellation of warnings by rating agencies about Panama's investment grade.
CLEANING UP THE MUNICIPALITY BUT NOT HIS OWN LAW FIRM
Herbert Young has served in public functions, notably on the Gambling Board under Moscoso's presidency, but it is his partner who has a real claim to political fame: legislator José Isabel Blandón Figueroa of the governing Panameñista party.
Blandón belongs to the influential crowd in the Panameñistas, and is currently in charge of governmental efforts to rescue his fellow party member, the generally loathed mayor of Panama City Bosco Vallarino, from falling into the abyss and dragging Panama City with him. All these ties are further cemented by the fact that Blandón's partner-in-law, aforementioned Herbert Young, is not just Ftriesner's corporate lawyer but also represents Bosco Vallarino.
One would of course expect that, with international vigilance and pressure mounting on Panama for its lack of an independent judiciary and public ministry, politicians and their associates would be wiser or at least more careful than to jump in bed with a multinational scammer who files imbecile criminal complaints and lawsuits. In these days of Panama's reputation and investment grade being in peril, high-profile members of the government should probably not be seen protecting criminal outcast that seeks a safe haven in Panama and harasses journalists.
But maybe Blandón and associates think it is good for them and for their country to shield a money launderer who has a journalist followed and distributes pictures of his house on the web? Mr. Friesner is from Canada, and wasn't Panama trying to get a free trade deal with that country these days?
Meanwhile, the public ministry is violating every rule in the book in prosecuting the criminal case. When showing up there to give a "declaración indagatoria", it turned out that they had "forgotten" to arrange for an interpreter, which is a constitutional right. Then they called this journalist a couple of days ago on his cellphone, to summon him again to show up two days later, without formally notifying because, as they said, "we didn't have time to notificar". Such blatant disrespect for the rules of due process, plus the fact that they are so abundantly unprofessional as to even admit the bizarre complaint - not to mention allegations about dead poodles - which deals with a website way outside their jurisdiction to boot, is obviously reason to suspect that this legal terrorism enjoys some sort of political impunity.
To refresh the memories of our distinguished politicians, prosecutors and lawyers, here's a news clipping from Canada - one of the many - that outlines some of Friesner's past crimes.