Spanish version

JUDICIAL AFFAIRS

Chamber head calls for prudence in Waked case

The family has been accused of money laundering by the U.S. government.

It is unclear what the impact of the situation will be.

Spanish version

Temas:

Chamber of Commerce President Jorge García Icaza called for prudent action to handle the potential crisis caused by the accusations made by the United States against the Waked family, one of the most prominent entities in Panama.

The guild also urged the Executive Branch, through the Ministry of Labor, to "mitigate" the uncertainty generated by the case for the 1,300 employees of companies owned by the family.

The Waked family is considered to be one of the most powerful economic groups in the Panamanian business world. In the province of Colón, specifically in the Free Zone, they are almost omnipresent. The purchase of the iconic chain Felix B. Maduro made them more visible in retail trade in 2015. And the recent construction of the Soho Mall placed them at the top in the world of luxury brands.

But the United States has said this empire was fueled by drug money. it said the family has used its businesses to launder money for drug traffickers, and has placed 68 companies and nine individuals on the Clinton List, which bans any U.S. entity from engaging in business with them.

Nidal Waked was arrested in Colombia Wednesday and is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

In practical terms, Waked stores can not sell merchandise from the United States or engage in financial transactions with banks in that country. That will have a substantial impact on the family's retail stores and its duty-free shops, which number more than 100 across the region.

Icaza said that "it is too early to speculate on the impact" of the situation, but said it is serious.

"It is important to define this situation properly," he said. "This is a serious legal case for the business group that will have to be handled by both the United States and Panama in accordance with due process and with respect for the presumption of innocence."

He also said that this is not a general problem in Panama.

"Business leaders are serious, they generate jobs, wealth, and are the engine of the country's economy by doing so honestly, working with thousands of contributors who are part of their companies," he said.

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