Something is afoot in Panama that I want to tell you about.
Several banks, including Banvivienda and HSBC, have recently announced that they will discontinue renting safety deposit boxes. Customers who currently rent boxes will have until the end of the year to vacate their belongings.
Furthermore, some banks that formerly used to work with US customers, including Banco General, Credicorp, and Global Bank, will no longer open accounts for Americans unless they meet a very narrow set of stipulations.
This is certainly the new landscape of Panama’s banking frontier. So what’s going on?
Several months ago when the G8 heads of state joined in unison to strongly condemn banking and tax havens, the OECD put together a complementary ‘black list’ to mark the most egregious offenders.
The black list amounted to nothing more than fodder for headlines– nothing actually changed, and politicians were able to appear to be taking a tough stand on tax criminals.
Developed countries with strong banking secrecy laws– Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Austria, etc. did no make the list. Poorer countries (Costa Rica, Uruguay) did.
And Panama? Noticeably and conspicuously absent from the OECD black list.
Perhaps this is because Panama’s top banking officials are already on CIA and DEA payrolls… though in all fairness I believe Panama to be more strategically important because of the Canal, so the OECD left them alone.
Meanwhile, though, Panama’s banks are starting to police themselves and tighten their own regulations… hence the banking changes we are now seeing. Panama is effectively side-stepping international regulation by making internal policy changes, and the biggest change– fewer options for customers from Estados Gringos.
There are still plenty of banks in the area who are happy to deal with US customers, and I will be scrubbing the list personally when I arrive in-country in a couple of weeks. The strongest names and contact info will be published in my upcoming black paper.
Furthermore, second citizenship is one of the very clear, obvious solutions to what I call ‘banking discrimination’. It is ironic indeed that Swiss and Panamanian bankers will happily open their books for a hapless felon from Zimbabwe, but a US citizen is kindly shown the door.
If you’re tired of being discriminated against because of the color of your passport, the second citizenship guide is coming.
Furthermore- regarding secure storage… I think that storing bullion offshore is a very smart idea, especially if it’s in a country that you visit from time to time. You should be storing enough metal to justify the security costs; to me, 1% to 2% is reasonable on an annual basis.
Traditionally, Panama has been a great jurisdiction for bullion storage, though our facility options just narrowed drastically now that many of the banks are closing their doors.
About 18-months ago, I explored the possibility of establishing a private secure storage facility in Panama. After almost a year of scouting for locations and designing the building, I abandoned the idea because I simply could not find much value in commercial real estate– prices were too high to justify the investment.
Now, given the increasingly limited options available to foreigners, I intend to dust off my plans and buy some space. Naturally, I am interested in hearing from you to see if a private, offshore secure storage facility located in Panama would fit the market’s needs.