Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CORRUPTION IN PANAMA EXTENDS TO TOURISM INDUSTRY

Shamah's mug shot, for arms trafficking, in Colombia.
A senior government official from the Martinelli administration, ex-Minister of Tourism Salomón Shamah, has been accused of stealing over $75m, while in office. Shamah reportedly approved bogus billings, listing ficticious companies that he controlled, as a central component of the scheme.

After he assisted Ricardo Martinelli with his successful election campaign, Shamah, who was born in Colombia, was appointed to the tourism portfolio as a reward, even though his US Visa had been revoked. The grounds for the revocation:  that he "had connections to a number of known drug traffickers." This information was revealed in a confidential cable from the then-US Ambassador, which was published by WikiLeaks. For that reason Shamah that he was unable to accompany the official contingent that visited the United States Capitol after Martinelli's election.

Shamah's brother Alberto, a licensed pilot, is known to have flown for both Martinelli, and convicted Ponzi schemer, David Helmut Murcia Guzmán. Murcia, who earned a reported $3bn in his DMG Ponzi scheme in Colombia and abroad, is known to have smuggled most of that money into Panama, where it was laundered and invested. Most of those Ponzi profits have never been identified or recovered, and are believed to have been stolen by powerful businessmen in Panama, who promised Murcia that they would invest it, but who took possession after Murcia's arrest and extradition to Colombia and the United States. The extent of Solomón Shamah's role is not known, but he, among most of Martinelli's ministers, reportedly used some of Murcia's bulk cash to purchase securities, which were later sold for an obscene profit, relying upon illegal inside information.

Several other ex-ministers, and former agency heads, will reportedly be charged with corruption, money laundering, abuse of power, and other crimes, by Panama's new reformist government, which is seeking to clean up the country's sordid image.

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