Silva Tree starts legal assault against international media – UPDATED

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Silva Tree says it will plant 1 million Paulownia trees in Panama; a species that doesn't grow very well in a humid tropical environment according to reforestation experts. Wrote the Christian Science Monitor: A telephone salesman's pitch recently claimed 350 hectares have been planted with tens of thousands of trees. But the company only owns 200 hectares, says a contractor for Silva Tree, and only 8,000 trees have been planted, 1,200 of which have died.

LEGITIMATE companies, especially those in such a complicated field as that of reforestation, are too busy running their businesses to waste time and assets on throwing money at lawyers to chase pesky journalists in Panamanian kangaroo criminal courts. Ask any serious and successful businessperson and he'll tell you the same.

So, the way a business deals with bad press is in a way a benchmark for its legitimacy. And by that standard, the reforestation investment scheme Silva Tree led by Dutchman Patrick Visser fails the test miserably.

Yesterday, your Bananama Republic was formally notified about the existence of a complaint for criminal defamation against your author in Panama.

That complaint, Patrick Visser himself wrote us earlier, also includes our colleague Sara Miller Llana and the Christian Science Monitor. Yes, you read that right, Patrick Visser, who doesn't live in Panama, is filing criminal libel complaints against a magazine that isn't published in Panama and a journalist who doesn't live in Panama either, in Panama, and the Panamanian prosecutors have accepted the complaint as if they rule the whole world, no less.

The complaint is about this damning story in the Christian Science Monitor and the subsequent article we did here.

First, Silva Tree and Patrick Visser hired US law firm Traverse Legal to attempt to have GoDaddy take our website down. That of course miserably failed, and they changed to Panamanian lawyers Pinzon Hidalgo & Co for a libel case that in the US - where they thus admitted it belongs - would have bleak prospects to say the least. The problem with this "libel tourism" is obviously that a Panamanian court has no jurisdiction over a website hosted in the US, so any order to take articles or even a whole website down is worth about as much as the paper it's typed on and will certainly not be honored by us.

Avid readers of Bananama Republic know of course that we have a 100% success rate in defeating these type of attacks brought by foreign hustlers who've set up shop in Panama, and we're not planning to change that.

Patrick Visser

Patrick Visser - who some readers point out vaguely resembles Joran van der Sloot, and who used to dabble in the wonderful world of timeshare sales and other boiler room schemes in Spain - has been sending us one bizarre email after the other over the last weeks and months. Just today, he complained that he was suffering from insomnia because of his tarnished reputation, and announced he'd visit the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv to file a criminal libel complaint against yours truly for that reason there as well. We kid you not.

While steadfastly refusing to use the right to reply that he has, Visser prefers to launch the weirdest accusations by emails he widely distributes among his colleagues, claiming we're involved in "illegal activity" and that he is suing for damages - which you can't do with a criminal complaint. Similarly bizarre, the complaint is filed on behalf of people that were never even mentioned in our stories and who therefore can't possibly have been slandered by any of them.

UPDATE 15/2/2011: We just learned that Patrick Visser is apparently trying to get a logging concession in Surinam, a former Dutch colony in Latin America covered by rainforest and governed by a convicted druglord. Surinam so far enjoyed a relatively low deforestation rate. Obviously, it is a kind of strange for someone who claims to do "green" reforestation business in Panama to simultaneously cut down rainforest in another part of the continent.

On another note, we're looking into filing a criminal complaint for extortion against Patrick Visser. In emails he sent to us, he demands content about him to be taken down from various websites, also those we have no control over, threatening with prosecution for "illegal immigration" and unspecified "illegal activities" - which is a clear violation of article 149 of Panama's penal code and carries a prison sentence of between five and ten years. Visser, according to his blog, will be visiting Panama shortly.

16 thoughts on “Silva Tree starts legal assault against international media – UPDATED

  1. Now that’s funny news indeed. If I understand it well, a Panamanian Court has actually accepted a “criminal libel” suit filed by a Dutchman living God knows where against a Dutch Journalist living in some secret floating dwelling off the Caribbean Coast of Panama. about disparaging remarks written in a Website hosted in the USA. It looks like this guy Patrick Visser is a perfect candidate to become the 2011 AHOTY, thus succeeding the 2010 AHOTY- the infamous Monty Friesner. I look forward to follow-up News in the matter….

    • AND against a journalist whom I even don’t know where she lives, who works for the Christian Science Monitor which is published and distributed in the US.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Silva Tree starts legal assault against international media | Bananama Republic -- Topsy.com

  3. Maybe they have an aggravated crimes against nature on the high seas count in the case. Then they could argue for universal jurisdiction, like if you were a maritime pirate, slave trader or someone who puts rabbit raisins in the pan con pasas dough for Super 99.

    • @PJ: I think it’s something lawyers in Panama knowingly do; charge for these cases that won’t go anywhere while telling people that they’ll just CRUSH these journalists.

  4. Can this story be verified? it sure doesn’t sound like something that someone just made up.

    I was interested to see Pablo’s post in this forum. My husband and I also lost our entire life savings to one of Patrick Visser’s investment schemes. It’s a long story but I hope you’ll take the time to read it as it may well save you from tremendous heartache in the future:

    Approximately two years ago my husband and I walked into the basement office of Inmolink (one of many companies Patrick Visser was running from an underground shop in the centre of Fuengirola, Spain). As a retired couple we had sold our home in the UK and were looking for a home in southern Spain to enjoy our retirement. If I’d known then what I know now, I would never have set foot in his office.

    We were greeted by Patrick Visser, who introduced himself as a Spanish property expert. We described our ideal retirement property and he assured us that we’d come to the right place. To cut a long story short, he showed us several completely unsuitable properties before taking us to a charming, but slightly run-down property in the countryside near Coin. We fell in love with that property immediately and could instantly picture how we could fix it up to be the home of our dreams.

    In hindsight I realise that this is the moment that our enthusiasm and naivety allowed Patrick Visser to destroy our whole life! Patrick claimed that there were several other people interested in buying but that they all needed to get finance, however as we were in the fortunate position of already have the full asking price, (200,000 Euros), in our bank account, (thanks to sale of our UK house), we might be able to get in first and buy the house. He said that the owner was a friend of his who had recently returned to the UK for family reasons and that he’d call him right now. Patrick went back to his car to make the phone call while we continued to look around the property. He came back a few minutes later with what seemed like great news. Patrick had not only convinced his friend to sell us the property, but his friend also needed to pay off some outstanding debts he had in Spain, if we were willing to put down a 50% deposit in cash, (Patrick told us this was normal practice in Spain), then he’d reduce the asking price by 10,000 Euros.

    I was a little worried about paying cash but Patrick convinced my husband that this was normal practice in Spain and that we were getting a fantastic deal. We’d been married for more than 40 years and all that time my husband had looked after our finances, so despite my reservations I went along with his decision. Patrick couldn’t have been more helpful, he drove us to a bank where he helped us to open an account and he even let us use the phone and fax machine in his office to arrange for our bank to transfer over half of our entire life savings.

    Three days later the money was in our new Spanish bank account and Patrick came with us to arrange for them to have the 95,000 euros we needed available in cash the next day. The arrangement was that the owner of the property would meet us the next day and sign a reservation document when we handed over the money.

    When we met Patrick again the next day with our money he said that the owner had missed his flight to Spain but not to worry we could still go ahead. He called the owner and handed the phone over to us. The owner apologised profusely that he wasn’t able to be there himself but that as Patrick Visser was an old friend of his as well as his estate agent he was quite happy for us to hand over the 95,000 Euros to Patrick to hold until he could get another flight to Spain and that the property would be reserved in our name. In our naivety we handed over half of our life savings in return for a three line receipt signed by Patrick Visser with an illegible signature. Patrick told us to relax, the property was now secured in our name as under Spanish law a verbal contract is binding. He said he’d call in a few days when the owner was in Spain and we could all go the notary to sign an official reservation contract and agree when the final part of the deal would be completed. We were overjoyed that our dream of a retirement together in the sun was finally coming true.

    While we were waiting to hear from Patrick my husband and I drove out to see the property again and by pure chance met another local estate agent showing the house to a couple. We explained how we had already put down a deposit so the house was effectively sold, the estate agent assured us that was impossible as they’d spoken to the owner that morning and he’d said nothing about any deposit… And that the owner was a Spanish gentleman who lived in the north of Spain!

    Suddenly alarm bells started ringing in our minds, something was very wrong. We tried calling Patrick – no answer. We called his office – “sorry he’s not in the office today”. We drove to his office – “he’s not here today and we’re not sure when he’ll next be in, had we tried his mobile?”

    For the next two days we called constantly, at least 50 times and visited his office at least 3 times per day. Finally we caught up with him just as he was leaving his office. My husband confronted him demanding to know what was going on and why he didn’t return our phone calls? At this point Patrick turned nasty. Patrick, who must be 6 foot 5 inches tall, grabbed my 67 year old, 5 foot 9 inch husband, by the collar and told him in a stream of swear words that “if he didn’t f***ing stop f***ing calling him he’d seriously f***ing regret it and to p**s off and leave him alone, when there was news he’d f***ing call us.”

    Naturally we were both pretty shaken up by this experience, but I’d never seen my husband so terrified. As soon as we’d sufficiently recovered we went to the nearest police station to report what had happened. We told them everything that had happened up until now but as we had no witnesses to the assault and no physical injuries they said there was nothing they could do, they advised us to get a lawyer to check what was happening with the property and if the lawyer could produce evidence that we had been victims of a fraud they could start an investigation then.

    We found a very helpful lawyer who spoke excellent English and gave them everything we had including the receipt from Patrick Visser for our 95,000 Euros. We were reassured that they would look into everything and if it turned out that we had be duped they would contact the police on our behalf. We returned to England and waited for news.

    Two weeks later our lawyer contacted us to say that unfortunately it did seem that Patrick Visser had deliberately deceived us. The real owner was indeed a Spaniard living in the north of Spain who knew nothing about a deposit being paid and had never heard of Patrick Visser. It seemed that whoever we had spoken to on the phone in Patricks office was an accomplice of his also involved in the deception. Our lawyer attempted to contact Patrick but his office claimed that he had recently left the company he owned and gone to work overseas although they weren’t sure exactly where.

    Our lawyer contacted the Spanish police on our behalf as promised, but as the only real evidence we had was the receipt it would be extremely hard to prove, apparently the evidence of the bank transfer was not enough as the money was taken out in cash and Patrick wasn’t actually with us in the bank on that occasion. It was obvious that we had been duped by a cunning and devious fraudster. The police told our lawyer that they had received several other complaints of fraud and theft by Patrick Visser and had started an investigation, but they also failed to locate Patrick and the investigation appears to have been closed. It seems that soon after the complaints came in he ceased operations in Spain and fled.

    Two years on, the impact of meeting this callous and vicious conman lives on. Three weeks after realising that we had lost not only half of everything we’d spent a lifetime working for, but also that our dream of retiring to the sun would no longer be possible, my husband suffered a severe stroke leaving him in a wheelchair and semi-paralysed for the rest of his life. We believe, and the doctors agree, that the stress, shame, and anger of losing half of our life savings to this despicable cheat Patrick Visser was a major cause of the stroke.

    We now live in small rented accommodation as we were left without enough money to buy another home outright and unable to get a mortgage due to our age and my husband’s condition.

    We will report this to the UK and Spanish police in the hope that they will investigate further and hopefully be able to do something to stop Patrick Visser from ruining anybody else’s life. In the mean time I can’t recommend strongly enough that you don’t do business with Patrick Visser or any company he’s involved in as I can only imagine it’s a complete fraud.

    Patrick Visser, may you rot in hell.

  5. So, after trying and failing to promote “residential tourism” and “medical tourism” it appears that Panama is now aiming to become the “libel tourism” capital of the world (!) Panamanians are quite creative indeed when it comes to “milk tourists” (!)

  6. We do not need no stinking laws in Panama!

    Panama has lots and lots of laws, but no one can read or really understand them to actively apply or enforce them!

    Any way by the time this case(sic) would ever get into a Panamanian court room would be around 2030 without substantial bribes to each and every person who would touch this file without loosing it at least ten times, that is if they can find it, in the first place!

    JaJaJa!.

    We have thousands and thousands of malnourished imbecilic lawyers here in Panama who can not even spell slander or let alone can conceive that there are laws and a Panamanian Constitution in any written language.

    Never fear Mulino, Pérez, Shamah, Diamond, Benzadón Cohen, Suarez, Henriquez, and Martinelli, all masters of disaster and corruption are all on this case???????

    They just love to make up fun stuff like laws that would even confuse a Panamanian supreme Court justice or Panama’s Occupational Army.

    After all they now recreated the National Police into an Occupational Army in their own depraved perverted narcissistic imagine to demonstrated that they own and run Panama like their own personal checkbooks and vassalage!

    Where we are nothing but common chattel and fodder for these self aroused corrupted narcissistic dubiously picked public servants in which they whole heartily disregard the laws and Constitution of Panama.

    Panama does NOT have the money to Fix, Repair, or Maintain any of it’s infrastructure or is able to accommodate Basic human needs here in Panama!

    “Panama where the numbers never add up”

  7. I agree Okie,

    There is nothing here as a frivolous lawsuit. They accept all without merit, jurisdiction etc in order to collect / share a fee. Even if a legitimate suit is filed especially if it is foreign victim vs foreign scamster one can forget it in the end you will only achieve to make the lawyer rich.

    Crime pays here one only needs to read the news In Spanish to verify it. Actually it’s probably a largest part of the informal economy here.

  8. I bent you didn’t know that Eduardo Reyes is a top Exec at Silva Tree.. The same crook who negotiated the REDD treaty for Panama as sub gerente de ANAM.

    • The thing is, they haven’t even got the slightest idea about PR or what their stupid actions mean for their reputation if nothing else. Having lawyers attempt to take down this website – anyone with half a brain could have told them that wouldn’t go anywhere, and the net result is that they look like a bunch of rogue amateurs. Same with this libel tourism in Panama – it’s almost as if they WANT to be seen as retards.

  9. Well, I just got back at my heavily fortified anchorage, having visited the fiscalia to read the complaint and sign for that. And it is a total ball of wax. Apparently at one point it got thrown out, and was then let in again for god knows what reason.

    Needless to say that the fine people of the Christian Science Monitor have not dignified the summons and requests with any sort of reply. Nor have Google or GoDaddy. What makes anyone there think that there is even a remote possibility of Panama exercising any jurisdiction over US (hosted) publications and foreign journalists is of course anyone’s guess.

    Alas, it does have some limited entertainment value.

  10. never get into a pisser with a kaaskop named Visser!

    By now you must be on a first name basis with the good folks down at the fiscalia!

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