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 - 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.