Election season is approaching, and our president Ricardo Martinelli is in full swing launching one scurrilous attack after the other against his political opponents.
The latest brawl has been between him and Ramón Fonseca Mora, who is vice-president of the Panameñista party of Juan Carlos Varela. The Panameñistas walked out of the coalition with Martinelli's Cambio Democratico a few years ago, and the relationship between the two political groups, which both serve different segments of Panama's oligarchy, has been below zero ever since.
Ramón Fonseca Mora is not just a politician (and a writer), but also partner/founder of the law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co, which specializes in worldwide trust and corporate services, asset protection and other such things that have made Panama famous as a tax and money laundering haven.
Martinelli now says, in his trademark blunt way, that Fonseca is a money launderer for the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. "Let justice take care of him", Martinelli answered when asked if he would debate with Fonseca.
The president's accusation is based on a request that was reportedly received by the Panamanian attorney general from the Libyan Asset Tracing Committee, which is in charge of locating state funds that were looted by Gaddafi and his family clan, to find out the beneficiaries of seven offshore corporations that were set up by Mossack Fonseca & Co in the British Virgin Islands. These corporations were then allegedly part of a larger scheme, which included several Maltese corporations as well, through which the Gaddafi tribe laundered the loot.
It is quite common that looted state funds are hidden in or laundered through Panama by dictators.
Is Mossack Fonseca & Co just another crooked Panamanian law firm, then? Well, it is certainly not the first time they pop up on the Bananama Republic radar.
Back in 2003, yours truly found out that the real identity of someone called "Dr. Leonard Adams" was in fact Homer W. Forster, a fugitive from Atlanta, Georgia, who was in the business of money laundering and worked as a consultant for other career criminals on how to change their identities and hide their ill-gotten gains.
When we tracked this character down, he was busy laundering the proceeds of a massive Dutch investment fraud perpetrated by one Rene van den Berg. Van den Berg had, by his own admission, forwarded the proceeds of his swindles to a Serbian individual called Bob Petrovic, who in turn had contracted Forster to launder the money.
Forster was arrested the day he was going to make a $25 million deposit at a Dubai bank. The front story he was using was that the deposit was related to a series of high-profile rock concerts that he was organizing for the benefit of UNICEF. In reality there were no rock concerts. He was eventually arrested again in Spain and extradited to the US, where he went straight to jail. Out again, he recently changed his name - this time legally.
So, what does this have to do with Mossack Fonseca & Co? This: The legal, corporate and banking services that Forster needed for his money laundering activities were provided to him by the Mossack Fonseca offices in Dubai, which are run by Canadian lawyer called Helene Mathieu.
At the time, we asked Mathieu as well as Fonseca repeatedly for a comment on this relationship, but never received a reply. We may need some tweets from Martinelli to get them to respond.