Those of our readers who have been around a bit longer will certainly remember how HSBC Panama, then headed by one Joseph Salterio, sequestered the assets of a Canadian retiree because he had made critical comments about the bank's services on the interwebs.
Your reporter first wrote about the case on the now defunct Noriegaville website, and there's still a good write-up of events on The Panama News, here.
In short, what happened was that Salterio could count on his friends, the dentist Charles Garcia and insurance broker Kevin Bradley, to put a case together against the Canadian, Peter Gordon. Garcia volunteered as an informant for Salterio on the Yahoo forums, and Bradley depended on Salterio because of the insurance policies he was selling to freshly arriving expats, and thus he wrote a letter to Salterio to close his $400 savings account, so that Salterio could then show how much incredible and devastating damage Gordon was doing to HSBC's business (back in the days, we asked Bradley for comments and explanations numerous times, but he never replied). Obviously, the case would have been laughed out of court in any serious country. This being Panama however, it proceeded almost effortlessly all the way up to the Supreme Court, which everybody knows operates like a criminal racket where they rule in favor of the highest bidder. Needless to say that Salterio, after whom the crooked banker Ramon Rudd in the Tailor of Panama was modeled, got the ruling he wanted.
If anything, the case demonstrated beyond doubt that Panama is not a safe place to bank and that various asset protection schemes using foundations and corporations aren't worth the paper their founding documents are printed on. All it takes is a rogue banker, some similarly rogue friends and a "well-connected" lawyer to break through your carefully structured foundation and so-called "banking secrecy".
Salterio has since been quietly eased out of HSBC by that bank's headquarters. He tried to take over the remains of Stanford Bank, but that bid failed for obvious reasons. He then became CEO of something called Unibank.
These days, expatriate Americans hanging out on Panama Forum have reignited the debate about HSBC versus Peter Gordon. The reasons aren't very clear, but it makes for entertaining reading.
For example, terrorist PR flack Don Winner is part of the cabal that includes Kevin Bradley and Charly Garcia, which years ago tried to sell us the idea that they were going to start Panama Guide as a non-profit vehicle to help new arrivals (in reality it was a scheme to steer business their way, and then it became a vehicle for Don Winner to promote a variety of scams and arms traffickers). Winner now claims he personally tried to intervene and clear things up in a long meeting with Salterio, and that Kevin Bradley tried to help Peter Gordon out as well because of the injustice of it all. So sweet!
In fact, Kevin went into the HSBC bank because he was pissed off. He heard they were taking legal action against Gordon, so he went in there to close an account in protest, and in support of Gordon. The branch manager told Kevin they - 1. Needed him to write a letter to put his request in writing, and - 2. There would be a charge to his account in order to close it. This pissed Kevin off severely so he drove straight back to his office and wrote a “mad” letter, telling them to go screw themselves. HSBC then took advantage of the situation, used his letter against Gordon, and the rest is history.
Did Kevin Bradley tell HSBC's Joe Salterio to "go screw himself"? Let's see! Here's the text of Bradley's "mad letter" to HSBC, and Salterio's reply. However, nowhere does Bradley mention the legal action against Gordon that Don Winner claims made Bradley so mad that he closed the account. Read on, and you'll see that Winner's theory is an obvious fabrication:
Centro Commercial La Coleena, Calle 50
Dated September 19th, 2005
Banco HSBC Panama
Dear Mr Salterio
After reading the VERY negative posts at the Americans in Panama Yahoo group by Mr Peter Gordon, I have decided to stop doing buisness with HSBC Panama. I refer you to posts where Mr Gordon implies that HSBC is “going under” and points out very negative practises by your bank. See posts where Mr Gordon speaks of lies, rip offs and broken promises.
I can no longer maintain an account with a bank that lies to their customers. Mr Gordon was a high net worth customer at your bank and has disclosed your unsavoury behaviour for some time. His investigations have revealed some very disturbing truths about your bank.
Please cancel my savings account # 048-037345-092, AT ONCE !. I will pass by the main branch office to collect my balance, as soon as you advise it is available. I will NOT be referring any of my insurance customers to your bank from this moment forward.
Signed Kevin Bradley
Lic de Corredor de seguros #1134
Dated October 20th, 2005
Mr Kevin Bradley
Panama City of Panama
Dear Mr Bradley
We hereby refer to your note dated September 19th, 2005, by means of which you have informed us of your decision to terminate your commercial relationship with HSBC BANK PANAMA, due to messages number xxxxx and xxxxxx that appeared on the site of the Yahoo groups known as “:Americans in Panama” in which Mr Peter Gordon makes serious allegations about negative practises by the bank and refers to alleged lying, rippoffs and broken promises.
In this respect, we deeply regret your decision, which we will fully comply, not wiothout informing you, as a HSBC BANK PANAMA client, that we feel obligated to confirm that the declarations made by Mr Gordon are totally spiteful and groundless.
Further to the above, we hereby send you Certified Check No. 105736 in the amount of FOUR HUNDRED SEVENTY NINE DOLLARS AND SEVENTY NINE CENTS (US$479.79) in concept of the final balance of your account #048-037345-092, not without apologizing once again for the circumstances that led to your decision.
Without any further matters, we remain
Signed Joseph L. Salterio
Clearly this is all a very serious matter. The CEO of a bank, engaging in correspondence with an angry customer over a $479 savings account? Where do you find such dedication these days, with Salterio even helpfully quoting the numbers of those evil, unfounded and defamatory messages by Peter Gordon?
Unable to keep up with the latest spin however, Clyde Jenkins, a friend of that other financial con man Monte Friesner, contradicted Don Winner, offering that Kevin Bradley was actually pissed with Peter Gordon, and helping Salterio/HSBC sequester Gordon's money was his way of taking revenge:
One thing you may not be aware of is that Peter Gordon spent months hammering on Kevin on this group trying to embarrass him with personal information that some of us are aware of, but is really no ones business and in no way negatively reflects on Kevin's character. Quite the opposite, I think it shows great character for a mere human being. I suppose that Kevin just got tired of the BS. I might point out that what Kevin did (merely writing a letter to HSBC to close an account and then closing that account) was neither illegal, immoral nor unethical. I imagine that most of us would have done much the same thing in that circumstance.
So, we have two persons who claim to be in the know about Kevin Bradley's motives and call him a friend, and the only thing they agree on is that Bradley was mad. Other than that, these explanations, posted online within just minutes from each other, are completely contradictory: One has it that Bradley was mad at HSBC and tried to help Gordon, and the other claims that Bradley was mad at Gordon and understandably helped HSBC by writing that letter. No wonder the punks who were spouting this drivel, Don Winner and Clyde Jenkins, have since gone mute on the subject.
That silence didn't last long though, as self-proclaimed Panama law expert and mindless Don Winner groupie Susan Guberman, in her turn, weighed in and described Winner's efforts in her own trademark brand of gringo expat bombast: "The adults in the room, on the other hand, tried their best to fix the problem before it created havoc in the financial sector in Panama."
Imagine that! Scam pimp Don Winner and his band of wacky expats saving Panama's financial sector from havoc! Who knows what could have happened to our banking center had some messages on a Yahoo board and a $400 withdrawal of assets been allowed to stand just like that!
What most of these clowns have in common is that they're all lying and they're all blaming the victim; Gordon should just have settled. He should have listened to this or that. He should have sacrificed some money and his dignity to prevent "havoc" in the "financial sector". And this is all said by people who haven't sacrificed anything themselves and stand to lose nothing from the crap they talk. They don't want anyone to rock the boat, because they're too busy climbing in it.
Here's what all these know-it-all self aggrandizing loudmouthed gringo types don't get: You must be totally out of your mind to be the CEO of an HSBC branch in a supposed banking center and plot and scheme with a drunken insurance salesman and a wacko dentist to shut up someone who posts some criticism of your bank on a Yahoo group, take his money and invalidate corporate and banking secrecy in the process. Only a third world pompous asswipe of a banker would do something like that. Not even the worst of Wall Street would be imbecile enough to go on some stupid revenge trip with a bunch of panagringo losers, cheered on by American outcast that tries to recycle itself here into "community leaders". That Salterio could become CEO of yet another bank tells you really all you need to know about how seriously Panama takes the integrity of its financial sector.
And as long as this ridiculous case is allowed to stand, nobody should trust Panamanian banks with their money, or any of the asset protection schemes being offered by the lawyers. And most certainly you should never buy insurance or even a second hand car from Kevin Bradley because he sells you down the drain to his crooked banker friends; never have your teeth fixed by Charly Garcia because the same applies to him; and never ever believe anything Don Winner or his entourage says about anything at all because they are physically incapable of speaking the truth.