Spanish version

INTERNATIONAL

Future of Waked companies unclear

They have been placed on the Clinton List by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Spanish version

Temas:

The long-term consequences for companies in Waked International, S.A. (Wisa) that have been included on the Clinton List for having laundered drug money are unclear.

However, the impossibility of having any kind of commercial relationship with companies in the United States, the first effect of the inclusion on the list, already has had consequences for the operation of some of the companies.

Several banks and credit card companies have already cut ties to businesses such as Felix B. Maduro, the clothing store that has a number of locations around Panama City. Yesterday, those stores placed signs announcing to customers that it would only accept payments in cash, check, cards issued by the store or gift cards. No longer could customers pay with credit or debit cards.

"Felix is a company of almost 130 years, it has its books open for any situation that needs to be clarified," said the company in a statement published by the newspaper La Estrella, also owned by the Waked family. It noted that stores have not closed and have maintained their usual hours.

The inclusion in the Clinton list also had immediate consequences for Balboa Bank & Trust and Balboa Securities, companies in which Nidal Waked, nephew of Abdul Waked, is a shareholder and a member of the Board of Directors.

The Superintendency of Banks and Superintendency of Securities took administrative control of the respective entities to safeguard the funds of clients, which in the case of the bank totaled $480 million at the end of 2015.

The Fitch rating agency downgraded the rating of the bank to D from BBB-. This is a consequence of the takeover and suspension of the operations of the bank. If the bank was to resume activity, typically the agency would raise the rating.

The Superintendency of banks said that "this is an isolated fact, without consequences of contagion in the rest of the national banking system."

Wisa businesses will also see effects in their relationship with insurance companies. The Superintendency of Insurance and Re-insurance approved new measures in 2015 to prevent money laundering, which included provisions for companies included on a national or international list on money laundering.

This may cause companies to have to sever their ties with Wisa, or perform enhanced due diligence before continuing their relationship with the company.

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