UPDATED BELOW - Four days ago, the garbage dump on Cerro Patacon took fire and has been burning since. Large clouds of toxic smoke continue to descend on the city. Since the budget of the fire department is about as high as what our president spends on publicity per year, there is not much they can do about the dioxin fumes wafting from the site.
Or is there? Of course the government, such as it is, could ask for help. Maybe Colombia has fire-fighting planes. Or the gringos.
Or maybe, instead of buying useless radar equipment and noisy second-hand Italian patrol boats, a fraction of that money could have been invested in fire-fighting equipment or sustainable waste management.
True to form, Martinelli & Co are improvising. First they were going to hire consultants to see what to do, and so that they could skim off the fees and pocket kickbacks. And now it seems that indeed the US will come to the rescue with equipment and foam.
Why would that be? Simple. Toxic smoke is attracted by toxic assets. At the moment of writing, worried and angry depositors are attending a meeting about the liquidation of COACECSS, the credit union of the social security workers. Regulators had intervened in June last year because of irregularities, notably money missing and payments of exorbitant commissions.
That is, certificates of deposit from COACECSS were being sold by a company headed by Gilbert Straub, a well known financial hustler and Nixon's bagman for the Watergate burglars.
La Prensa quotes a foreign depositor who obviously never read this website:
Un depositante extranjero, hoy jubilado, reporta que vino “a Panamá con la esperanza de tener una vida calmada y pacífica, pero he sido fuertemente decepcionado con la forma en la que se conducen los negocios aquí”.
“Seré muy renuente de iniciar actividades financieras o de negocios en el futuro”, concluyó.
Next to Straub, we had Monte Friesner and Tatiana Nazarova who, through their Pronto Cash company, were going to supply COACECSS with debit cards.
With Straub and Friesner in the mix, what could possibly go wrong? Well, depositors will find out today. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 24/03: Heated meeting yesterday, in which it was announced that COACECSS will be liquidated, a process that will take about 2 years. If depositors will see any of their money back is yet to be determined. Full story in La Prensa. Anyone still vouching for Panama as a "financial center"?
UPDATE (2) 24/03: In the comments you'll find various references to Jon Hanna of Panama Offshore Legal Services, who was apparently acting as an affiliate or agent for COACECSS, finding depositors and then cashing in on those inflated commissions. It's not the first time that we hear about Hanna luring investors into, shall we say, dysfunctional schemes; years ago we were contacted by people whom he tried to convince to invest with a fraud called the Milennium Fund. In that fraud was, next to aforementioned Gilbert Straub, also involved one William Amos - who, just like Jon Hanna, used to work for the Harris Organisation. Needless to say that Hanna has been one of the first and most loyal sponsors of scam pimp Don Winner's Panama Guide.