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Guatemala in the Panama Papers

By Fathouse Productions

You’d trust a company called Brodway (not a typo) Commerce Inc., right? Well, so did Mossack Fonseca, the money-laundering, shell company-creating, law-skirting Panamanian law firm whose leaked documents are the now-famous “Panama Papers”. The firm saw no problem creating Brodway Commerce as a shell company for Guatemalan entrepreneur Marllory (also not a typo) Chacón, the Queen of the South and one of the most successful female drug kingpins of all time.

It appears that Mossack Fonseca did not even do the least bit of research on the Queen before accepting her as its client and allowed her to launder millions of drug dollars. Guatemala’s corporate sector appreciates that kind of… trust, putting Guatemala 6th on the list of countries home to the businesses that hired the now-infamous Mossack Fonseca (after the other trust-loving corporate havens of Hong Kong, the UK, Switzerland, the US, and Panama).

But Mossack Fonseca’s trustiness and Marllory Chacón’s use of the firm wasn’t the star of the leaks here in Guatemala. It was the lawyer who had hooked up the Queen with Mossack Fonseca: Francisco Palomo.

Palomo has represented right-wing establishment all stars like former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt when he was charged with genocide, and former President Alfonso Portillo, when he was charged with embezzling millions of dollars from the Guatemalan state during his term from 2000-2004. They were both convicted. (Portillo had proved his masculinity on the campaign trail by frequently bragging about how in the 70s when he was studying in Mexico he shot and killed two unarmed Mexican university students, allegedly in self defense. He only began bragging after the case’s statute of limitations ran out.)

Anyway, when Palomo was killed in Guatemala City last year by a pair of hitmen, many were shocked that someone so high-profile and so close to the powerful right-wing establishment could be assassinated. He had even been on the Supreme Court! Others were not so surprised, and surmised that it was probably because he knew too much, either about genocidal dictators, corrupt homicidal presidents, or the narcos (drug lords) whom it was rumored he also represented.

The Panama Papers show that he worked with the Queen, proving his connections to drug traffickers. Still, it’s hard to discount the culprits suspected by his widow Lucrecia, whom she has repeatedly denounced for the murder: human rights activists.

While it’s hard to top Lucrecia’s insane irony, it’s not impossible. The leaked Panama Papers detail how Mossack Fenosa helped rich people from all over the world create tens of thousands of shell companies to launder money, evade taxes, and generally avoid fiscal transparency. They also name names, like Gonzalo Delaveau of Chile, who was connected to at least five shady off-shore companies. This forced him to resign from his job as the head of the Chile branch of global corruption watchdog Transparency International.

Last year, Transparency International’s lobbying got UK Prime Minister David Cameron to announce plans to crack down on “the corrupt, criminals and money launderers” who dodge taxes and hide money offshore. Ironically, his wealthy father had run an offshore investment firm that, writes The Guardian, “avoided ever having to pay tax in Britain by hiring a small army of Bahamas residents – including a part-time bishop – to sign its paperwork.”

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