October 6, Panama and Azerbaijan signed an MOU on bilateral consultations reports Azerbaijan’s MFA.
The agreement was signed during Azerbaijan’s FM Elmar Mammadyarov official visit to Panama where he met with his counterpart Isabel Saint Malo de Alvarado.
This is the first visit of such diplomatic level between Azerbaijan and any Central America state.
Alvarado, satisfied with the visit said the MOU is the start of bilateral political dialogue.
In the meantime, calls for investments are already made. The acting minister of commerce and industries in Panama Nestor Gonzalez welcomed Azerbaijani businessmen to invest in the country’s infrastructure and service sector reports Trend.az.
But even before Azerbaijan’s foreign minister visited Panama, Azerbaijan developed a special interest in Panama.
In 2011, an investigative report by journalist Khadija Ismayil showed links between the ruling family and a series of companies registered in Panama. “According to documents obtained by RFE/RL from the Azerbaijani Tax Ministry (registration number 1105-T13-3906), Azerfon [a Baku-based telecoms company that operates under the brand Nar] is owned by three Panama-registered companies, one company registered in the Caribbean tax haven of Nevis Island, and the state-owned Aztelekom. The latter owns 10 percent of Azerfon, while the Nevis Island firm Cellex Communications SA owns 18 percent. The three Panama-registered firms, each of which owns 24 percent of Azerfon, are Hughson Management, Inc.; Gladwin Management Inc.; and Grinnell Management Inc.”
“The Panama State Registry provides basic information about the three companies registered there that are purportedly among Azerfon's owners. According to their records, Leyla Aliyeva, President Aliyev's 25-year-old eldest daughter, is registered as the president of Gladwin and Grinell. In both cases, Arzu Aliyeva, Ilham Aliyev's 22-year-old second daughter, is registered as company treasurer.
In the case of Hughson, the roles are reversed, with Arzu listed as president and Leyla as treasurer.”
Later investigative stories into the illegal businesses of the ruling family showed this was not an isolated case but a reoccurring story.
Panama is known as a safe heaven with its law granting confidentiality and various other benefits such as tax exemption to Sociedades Anonimas also known as Bearer Share Corporations. The Law 32 grants confidentiality to assets, identity, business and banking transactions.