"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.
A much more important question. Do you think Blandon employed the same make up artist as Balbina and Bobby?
Okke: In a First World Country the judiciary would never allow a nut like Monty, (as Shamita Ramdin calls him) to file a frivolous lawsuit against a reputable journalist like you; but in Panama it is happening all the time.
Frankly what worries me in this particular case is that (according to Panama law) in suing you for a Million Dollars Monty actually had to deposit a bond for about $300,000. In other words he clearly has the means as well as the intention to make your life difficult. Given his past as a convicted scammer and given his family ties with Rodin – the infamous legislators briber in the CEMIS case, I suspect that Monty is prepared to bribe the judge; thus I am afraid that he has a good chance to win the case in the lower Court. Be prepared to go on appeal.
As for Jose Blandon Jr. – the “Arnulfista” – isn’t he the son of Jose Blandon Sr. – the PRD journalist? Be aware that in this family they milk the cow from both sides.
How many make-up artists willing to do these paint jobs on politicians could there be in Panama?
Yet here’s another story in this regard. Remember the 2004 election campaign? Most of the media were bought, sold and paid for. La Prensa’s director was promised the ambassador to the US job if he’d help Martín. Ricardo Lombano became consul or something other high up. And so on.
And this same José Blandon had a file, dating back to the Noriega days, which implicated Martín Torrijos in a narco kidnap case. He had that file because he represented one of the culprits, one Raul Mata Zuñiga – who went to jail for it.
So, even though things looked quite hopeless for the Arnulfistas, Blandón started to quietly distribute this file among journalists and “civil society”. I got a copy too. There were all these juicy sworn statements in there, on how Martín was close friends with this whole bunch of drug dealers, how he had lend his car to the kidnappers etc.
But, since the media were bought, sold and paid for, nobody wrote about it. NOBODY. Except me. I had just started a website and I thought it was newsworthy.
This obviously caused substantial discomfort among PRD ranks, and soon I started receiving threats, as well as PRD envoys trying to “reason” with me. I didn’t change a word I wrote and instead reported on these efforts as well.
So, after the elections, a prominent Arnulfista colleague of Blandón called me, the former PTJ chief Rodolfo Aguilera Franceschi. He invited me to his office because he wanted to personally compliment me with being “el periodista más valiente” during the campaign, for publishing parts of Blandón’s file.
And look at Blandón now. Protecting a sleazy hustler with his law firm.
I’m not writing this because Blandón “owes me” or anything like that. I don’t aspire to be part of Panama’s “favor economy”. I’m telling this here because he of all people should know that I am not to be intimidated by idiotic lawsuits, people stalking me, threats or legal harassment. All those who have tried that shit are gone, out of office, powerless, or even in jail. And I’m still here. So what are these guys thinking?
@XIO: I think the $300k bond is only if he wanted to do a “secuestro” for one million. He didn’t do that, they just filed a case. I don’t believe you have to put up a bond for that. Anyone can sue for anything.
But how could a lie ever come out of these luscious lips?
Although I admire your integrity Okke, I think “favor economy” is universal, and furthermore, that you should milk it for all it is worth. Show Monte la otra cara de la moneda and that you can play the game better than he does. And because “these lips” cant lie, I would not be surprised if Blando had no idea who Monte was by the way. Perhaps you can enlightens him , and ask him, on behalf of your faithful readers, how a convicted felon ever received any sort of visa to reside in our peaceful country. And then YOU can countersue for all the time he is making you waste. Lost productivity and all that. Your time must be worth something, no, periodista mas valiente?
@XIO – are you trying to make up for the “over the hill” statement? LOL
And I think we should applaud the judiciary system for accepting such lawsuit – how else would we get our laughs? we have enough fodder from the last few months alone to keep us amused for a long time. I think the Okke “diaries” will make GREAT christmas present. I will buy at least 3 or 4 copies myself. After THESE sales, and the money he will get from his counter lawsuit against Monte, he can take all of his readers out for mojitos!. well, maybe a select few.
@FromBocas: Your comments are duly noted. Friesner doesn’t have a residency visa, he’s a tourist here. So am I, by the way. So we have these Panamanian kangaroo judges and prosecutors taking a case filed by a Canadian tourist against a Dutch tourist, about a website that is hosted in the United States. So fuck ’em. But stay tuned for the Bananama Diaries. Working on it.
Okie reprint refresh the Blandon’s file
@PJ: That will take some digging, but will do. The most damning statement, on the top of my head, came from one Augustin Bedoya, who detailed Martín’s relationship with the whole cast of characters.
The case evolved around a missing load of cocaine, that allegedly some of Noriega’s pilots had a sort of taken for themselves. One pilot was killed later. I think – but still all from memory – that Noriega went after these Martín guys as he thought they did it, and they subsequently kidnapped the pilot’s wife or something like that.
Martin of course claimed innocence, but could not answer that why, if he had nothing to do with any of it, he was hauled to the fiscalia by Noriega’s people to give statements twice. All in all it was pretty juicy stuff and tied right into what Blandón’s father testified about before the Kerry committee.
@FROMBOCAS: You definitely have a knack for catching sarcasm. LOL
Lets not forget Panama’s infamous hack wanna be con man don the wanker?
Who bend down on his knees to advertise this over priced confidence scam?
How do you think don the wanker finances his sexual obsessions with hookers, white slavery, and murders?
Of course this make him a shill internet journalist to steal and pillage the natural and unnatural resources of Panama and all that live with in his virtual mental playground?
“Mr. Friesner is from Canada, and wasn’t Panama trying to get a free trade deal…”
Hey, isn’t it Dr. Friesner? or has he abandoned the doctorate title?
Every time you think you’ve seen stupidity to the fullest, somebody shows up and proves you wrong. How can this guy Friesner stand to gain anything from this at the end? Even if he wins (I would sure like to say “in the unlikely case”, but in Panama..) the extensive coverage will scare new investors even more.
On a side note, owing someone a million bucks personally, is pretty cool. 😉
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