Speculations on GMA visit to Colombia

Speculations on GMA visit to Colombia

by Ellen Tordesillas

Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, who is president of the United Opposition, is asking Gloria Arroyo to explain why she detoured to Cartagena, Colombia in between her visit to Japan and Brazil last weekend.

Binay has every right to ask because he said “Arroyo is traveling on taxpayers’ expense.”

Since the Department of Foreign Affairs said they arranged only the Japan and Brazil trips and were not told about the trip to Colombia until Friday (Arroyo went to Colombia Saturday and left for Brazil Monday) and Malacañang does not want to say anything about it, the secret visit has become fair game to speculations.

An American businessman who is following closely developments in the Philippines thinks the Cartagena trip was really for a business transaction in nearby Panama.

The businessman, who wants only to be identified as Jay for reasons that we fully understand, related: “Last year, I took a trip to the country bordering Colombia, Panama. I lived there as a child in the 1970’s while my father was stationed at an Air Force Base in the former Canal Zone, and it was my first trip back in 30 years. I was astounded by the skyscrapers that now dot the Panama City skyline. I discovered that Panama is now an offshore banking haven–like the Switzerland of Latin America. There is also some evidence that many of the construction projects around the city were started as a way to launder illicit drug money from Colombia.

“I work as a financial advisor with Citigroup in the US. If a certain Jose Miguel Arroyo walked into my office and wanted to open a $100 million account with me, I couldn’t do it. We have very strict guidelines for dealing with foreign government or public officials and have to be able to establish a ‘source of wealth’. We definitely cannot open accounts under aliases such as Jose Pidal. It would be very easy for a private banker from Panama to take a short plane ride into Cartagena to talk with GMA about setting up numbered accounts to hide her ill-gotten loot. If she flew directly into Panama, that would be just as suspicious as taking a trip to Switzerland unannounced.”

I googled “Panama offshore banking” and this is one of the interesting items I found:

“Expedited Panama Bank Account Service. Due to our relationship with one of the largest and most trusted banks in Panama, you can have a Panama Bank Account in 1-3 days. When you order our expedited service you can have your bank account open in just 3 days. This option does not require you to come to Panama. Select clients can now be interviewed without travelling to Panama. It is now possible to get a bank account and corporation in 24 hours using our rush service. ”

It also says that, ” Panama Bank Accounts have strong Bank Secrecy, which calls for prison terms and fines for violators. The difference between Panama and other offshore jurisdictions, is that Panama strongly enforces its bank secrecy laws. Also you could, of course, sue the bank for any violations as well. ”

This reminds me of the information I got about Mike Arroyo’s trip to Lugano, on Switzerland’s border with Italy in July 2006. This was the time that Mike Arroyo stayed behind after his wife’s European visit.

Gloria Arroyo announced that her husband was staying behind in Spain to trace his ancestral links to St. Theresa de Avila.

A source said that with a female traveling companion, Mike Arroyo went to Lugano which is “third behind only Zurich and Geneva as a Swiss banking center”.

In this Cartagena trip, I learned from reliable sources that the Arroyos were hosted by businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel and wife Lizzie, a Colombian.

Blogger Saxnviolins has another theory: “There is a special interest in Cartagena, which is not the capital of Colombia. I doubt that friendship and the hosting by Zobel de Ayala is the main reason. There is a business purpose to the trip to Cartagena.”

Saxnviolins said Cartagena is Colombia’s second largest port; the largest is in Buenaventura. A known Arroyo ally, businessman Ricky Razon of International Container Terminal Services Inc. has invested $180 Million in Buenaventura:

Saxnviolins said it has been rumored that the Arroyos have a stake in ICTSI. “So the Cartagena trip may have something to do with ICTSI.”

Blogger HKOfw is very angry: “‘Like a thief in the night’ biglang umiba ng ruta ng biyahe ang Pamilya Kawatan. Para tuloy na-hijack ang eroplano. Ganyan talaga ang gawain ng magnanakaw. Bigla kung tumira. Walang paa-paalam. Kasi nga magnanakaw. Kaya wala tayong dapat ipagtaka. Tiyak hindi lang ito ang huli. May susunod pa. Dahil walang sumasalungat. Si Foreign Secretarty Romulo walang dangal, Nakatulala na lang.

“Ang kapal nila. Hindi kanila ang eroplano, gamit ito para sa kabutihan ng bayan pero kung gamitin nila parang pribadong eroplano nila ito. Walang abug-abog na biglang pumunta sa kabilang ibayo ng Dagat Pasipiko at walang pakialam sa bansang may-ari ng kanilang sasakyan at marahil may dala-dalang perang mga ninakaw.

“Siyempre may dahilan na lihim. Magpapakaligaya sila sa paraiso ng Caribbean Islands? Maari o kasama na ito. Pero ang ibang dahilan ay malamang na baka bumili sila ng isla o property dito para tirhan sakaling tumakas sila sa batas at ngitngit ng mga Pinoy.”


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