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Monday, September 01 2014 @ 02:37 PM EDT

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Expat Stig Pedersen Dies From Injuries Received During Assault In Bocas del Toro

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Stig Pedersen, a member of the community of English speaking expatriates living in the Republic of Panama of US and Danish descent, died last night as a result of the injuries he received during a brutal assault and robbery.

On June 21, six armed, masked men assaulted and abducted 73 year old Stig Pedersen at his home located in Tierra Oscura, in Bocas del Toro, in the Republic of Panama.

This morning I received the following from one of Stig's friends;

  • I hope you are well.

  • We are all shocked to learn this morning that Stig died last night.

  • You may not have heard that 2 weeks ago 6 armed men arrived at his house ransacked the house and assaulted Stig savagely.

  • The perps stole Stigs Panga and kidnapped Meribel and the unconscious Stig and drove away with Stigs Panga loaded with the loot stolen from his house.

  • Stig was found about 2 hours later at Pittie Creek in his boat and saturated with petrol. Meribel had jumped from the speeding boat fearing for her life and swam ashore.

  • He was taken by the police to hospital in Almirante, later transferred to Changuinola and later still David.

  • He was in intensive care then an operation we think to ease pressure caused by bleeding on his brain.

  • He seemed to be recovering and was allowed home in a wheelchair 2 days ago. He was speaking but was unable to walk due to paralysis down one side of his body.

  • Last night apparently he suffered some breathing difficulties and then died.

  • We are all very sad and appalled by this and I in particular would like to do anything I can to put pressure on the police and prosecutors to make sure this is properly investigated and that criminals get punished.

  • Any advice you can offer or pressure you can exert would be appreciated.

Related Article: Gringo (US/Denmark Expat) Assaulted In Bocas del Toro - Needs Blood Donations

Editor's Comment: I would return to the neighbor who Stig said "wants him dead" as a starting point. My condolences to his friends and family.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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ANIP Hunting Down Martinelli's Friends For Tax Payments

Money MattersPanama's National Revenue Authority (ANIP) is investigating several companies with commercial ties to Gabriel Btesh and Ricardo Francolini, according to a source within the institution. (more)

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Government Employees in Panama Won't Be Able To Be A Member Of A Political Party

Employment & JobsPublic officials (government employees) in Panama won't be able to be a member of any political party, if the National Assembly passes a proposed amendment to Law 9 of 20 June 1994, which establishes and regulates Civil Service. (more)

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Panama Normalizes Diplomatic Relations With Venezuela

Panama NewsPanama's Minister of Foreign Affairs Isabel Saint Malo announced through a press release yesterday, that diplomatic relations with Venezuela have returned to normal. (more)

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List Of New Panamanian Members to Central American Parliament Revealed

Panama NewsThe ruling Panameñista party obtained the most Deputies to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) following the recent national elections in Panama. (more)

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SENAN Arrested Three Colombians In A Ship With A False Bottom

Drug TraffickingThe National Naval Air Service arrested three Colombians on board a boat with an empty double bottom, presumably being used to transport illicit substances. (more)

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Police Officers Discover Someone Keeping An Ocelot As A Pet in Tocumen

Animals & PetsOn Friday morning the National Police announced the discovery of an ocelot in a vehicle at the entrance to the neighborhood of Nuevo Tocumen, on Thursday. (more)

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50 Year Old Brazilian Woman Found Dead In Her Panama City Apartment

Crime & PunishmentGraciela Lima, a Brazilian national, was found dead inside her apartment on Calle 50. (more)

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4.4 Earthquake This Morning Near Mulatupo Sasardi, Panama

EarthquakesBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - An earthquake measuring 4.4 of the Richter scale struck 14km (9mi) WSW of Mulatupo Sasardi, Panama this morning. (more)

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Only 66% Of Stores Complying With New Food Price Control Measures in Panama (ACODECO)

Food & DrinkAccording to the administrator of the Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition (ACODECO) Pedro Meilan, only 66% of the businesses in the country are complying with the Executive Order implemented price controls on 22 basic food products. (more)

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Campos de Pesé (Company) Charged In Water Pollution Case

Environmental IssuesThe Judge in the province of Herrera, Julisa Saturno, accepted yesterday the charges filed against the executives of the company Campos de Pesé for environmental crimes, and for crimes related to land use and public health, in the case of a chemical spill causing pollution in the La Villa river. (more)

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Well Known American Expat Clyde Jenkins Died in Colombia Yesterday at 78 Years of Age

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - With great sorrow and a heavy heart I report the death of my good friend Clyde Jenkins, who passed away yesterday at a hospital in Colombia. A friend of his posted the following on the Colombia Expats yahoo email group;

  • Clyde passed away about an hour ago. He had been in a coma since early Sunday morning. He was sedated and did not suffer. In the last 24 hours his status turned critical as his kidneys had failed and he developed a bad infection.

  • Gina is making funeral arrangements. Since Clyde was a relapsed Catholic, she is arranging a mass for him. As he wished, his body will be cremated and the ashes scattered.

  • I will verify that a death certificate has been prepared and issued and will also make certain that the US Embassy in Bogota is notified. When I inquired Tuesday, I was told they will need the death certificate before the death can be formally processed.

  • Those of us who knew him and visited him when he was in Santuario know that his life was simple but comfortable. He had homemade furniture, some appliances and clothes. There are two very dated hand held GPS units, a Dell laptop and a larger display. Aside from these, the whole bunch would probably bring only a few hundred thousand pesos if sold. He told me last week that he wanted these few things to go to Gina, and the laptop to his Young student friend Jhonny. He was so grateful for their care during his decline over the last weeks. As long as I knew him, he never had a TV.

  • I will remember this remarkable man fondly. He was highly intelligent. He kept his mind active playing games such as Free Cell, but would add complicated rules, play the games backward and so forth. He devoured the news daily by internet. During our friendship which lasted over 5 years, I visited him often, at times along with my brother Dwight. Clyde liked to recount his childhood in Washington and his later life in San Diego. He wrote some beautiful little vignettes about his life and his loves. He had once been quite wealthy, but lived his simple life very happily. He never complained about not having enough, and was blissfully happy in his precious Santuario. He was an accomplished chef. Whenever I would visit, I would bring lots of goodies for him - cheeses, salamis and other stuff he could not find in Santuario or Pereira. He always got a bottle of Gran Marnier from me. He had remarkable recall. Even in his last days, when he became quite fuzzy and would worry about dementia, I would prop him up by pointing out how well he remembered events, people and places. He told me that perhaps the only regret he might feel in his last minutes would be that he did not live to see Orke O brought to justice in Panama.

  • God Bless you friend. Rest in Peace and surely near your beloved Pacific ocean.

  • Your friend Tommy

I first met Clyde about ten years ago at an even organized for expats in Panama. We quickly became friends, and we were close while he lived here. I would pick him up from his small little one-room apartment in Casco and we would go do whatever together.

Clyde was a constant presence on most of the Panama related Yahoo email groups. I asked him to help me moderate the Americans in Panama Yahoo group, and he volunteered to help me clean out the moderated messages and keep the (mentally ill) trolls at bay. He was happy, friendly, and more than willing to give of his time and experience to help the members of the growing community of English speaking expatriates, both in Panama and in Colombia.

Bye, Clyde. Thanks for everything. Rest in Peace, Marine...

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com.

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Emergency Price Controls Take Effect Today

Money MattersThe executive degree signed on Monday freezing prices on 22 basic food products takes effect across the country. (more)

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Hearing Will Be Held To File Charges In La Villa River Contamination Case

Environmental IssuesThis Thursday a hearing will be held, under the principles of the adversarial criminal system, the first formal hearing on the complaint of charges for alleged crimes against public health due to contamination of the La Villa river with atrazine. (more)

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President Varela Repealed Executive Order Providing Protection To Government Employees

Employment & JobsGovernment officials will not be entitled to benefits if they are fired from their public jobs for any cause, now that President Juan Carlos Varela has repealed the Executive Order signed by former president Ricardo Martinelli, which established protection for public employees. (more)

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"We've Only Been In Office For A Week" - Minister Henriquez Responding To Wild Bill Emails

Expat TalesThe messages posted by William Dathan Holbert, commonly known as "Wild Bill", to his social networking account and sent via email to the Editor of the La Estrella newspaper, have reopened doubts regarding security in Panama's prisons. (more)

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Mendez to Blandon: "The People Want To See How You Keep Your Promises, Not A Witch Hunt"

Corruption"I do not understand, because now they have uncovered something I have already explained," said the former Mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez, in response to questions raised by the new Mayor Jose Isabel Blandon. (more)

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President Varela Expands Pardon Decision

PoliticsAlthough the president of the republic, Juan Carlos Varela, said his Executive Cabinet would make a decision yesterday on the future of the pardons granted by the former president Ricardo Martinelli, the issue was ignored on the agenda the chief executive and his ministers. (more)

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Sunwing Airlines Introduces New Direct Flights to Playa Blanca Airport (RIH) in Panama

Travel & TourismWith effect from August 1, 2014, Sunwing Airlines will be offering year-round direct flights from Toronto to the Playa Blanca Airport (also known as Scarlett Martinez International Airport) in Panama. This winter, Sunwing will also introduce flights to Playa Blanca Airport from several Quebec gateways in 2014, including Montreal starting in November, Quebec City starting in December, and Bagotville starting February 2015.

“The Playa Blanca region is a popular destination with Sunwing travellers and these direct flights will dramatically improve our passengers’ vacation experience,” says Andrew Dawson, COO of Sunwing Travel Group. He continues to say, “There will be no more two-hour transfers from the previously used busy hub airport in Panama City. Now the majority of the resorts will be within a ten minute drive of this brand-new airport, a game changer when making holiday destination choices for our passengers.”

Sunwing Vacations is the only Canadian company to have confirmed flights to the Playa Blanca Airport and to celebrate, Sunwing landed its first flight on April 4, 2014 as part of the Playa Blanca Airport Opening Ceremony.

Sunwing Vacations offers several great resort choices in Panama and direct flights with quick transfers, making Panama a convenient vacation destination in Central America. We will be offering flights from Quebec City and Bagotville for the high season for the first time this upcoming year.

The new flights from Toronto to Playa Blanca Airport will operate weekly starting on August 1, 2014, while Montreal flights will begin November 14, 2014. A one-week vacation package to Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort, a Sunwing Smile™ resort featuring many family-friendly perks, starts from just: $595 + $345 taxes per person, based on double occupancy departing from Toronto on September, 5, 2014 thru October, 17, 2015. From Montreal, prices start at: $1295 taxes included, weekly departures starting on November 14, 2014 thru December, 12, 2014 for double occupancy. From Quebec, prices start at: $1295 taxes included, weekly departures starting on December 12, 2014 based on double occupancy. From Bagotville, prices start at: $1395 taxes included, departures on April, 3 and April 24, 2015 for double occupancy. Sunwing will also operate additional flights during the winter season from December 2014 until April 2015.

Sunwing Airlines has been offering affordable flights since 2005. Operating convenient direct flights from almost 40 cities in North America, to over 30 vacation destinations, savvy travellers choose Sunwing because of the airline’s unbeatable prices, reliability, and award winning service. Sunwing’s modern fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircrafts have helped the airline achieve an outstanding performance record for on-time departures, as well as increased fuel efficiency, contributing to the carrier’s low fares.

All Sunwing Vacations include award-winning Sunwing Airlines’ Champagne Service, which features a complimentary glass of champagne, hot towel service, Hot & Fresh Bistro meals served with a choice of wine at lunch and dinner, and complimentary in-flight entertainment, including first-run movies and a generous 20 kg free baggage allowance. For just $40 more per flight segment, travellers can upgrade to Sunwing’s Elite Plus Service™, which features advance seat selection, separate check-in at a majority of airports, advance boarding, 30 kg baggage allowance, priority baggage handling, and extra legroom seats. (Press Release)

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First Quantum Minerals Reports Resumption of Construction Activity at Cobre Panama Project

Gold & MiningFirst Quantum Minerals Ltd. today reported that construction activity at its Cobre Panama copper project has resumed.

Following discussions with union officials, the site was re-opened on Saturday July 5, 2014 and site activities are ramping up under the new roster of 21 days of work with seven days off. (Press Release)

Editor's Comment: Good. This is the massive copper project that's going to cost more than $6 billion dollars to build. Lots of foreign direct deposit money pouring into the Panamanian economy.

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Arbitration over $1.6 billion Panama Canal cost dispute to begin in July

Canal ExpansionBY ZACHARY FAGENSON (Reuters) - Arbitration to decide who will bear the Panama Canal expansion project's $1.6 billion cost overrun, a dispute that temporarily halted work earlier this year, will begin in closed-door sessions in Miami later this month, according to lawyers arguing the matter.

On July 21 "both sides will submit their terms and draft procedural orders for how things will work," said Carolyn Lamm, an attorney with White & Case representing the Spanish-led construction consortium.

Labor and cost disputes have plagued the effort to expand the 100-year-old canal, fanning fears of delays that could cost Panama millions of dollars in lost shipping tolls and posing a setback for companies worldwide that want to move larger ships through the waterway that links U.S. South and East Coast ports to Asian markets.

Panama's largest construction union resumed work on May 8 following a two-week strike demanding higher wages. Work had also ground to a halt in early February due to the dispute over who would bear cost overruns that boosted the project's $5.25 billion budget to near $7 billion.

In a deal signed in March, the Panama Canal Authority and the consortium led by Spain's Sacyr and Italy's Salini Impregilo agreed to inject $100 million to resume work. Both also agreed to extend repayment of $784 million of advanced payments made by the Panama Canal Authority to the consortium until 2018 at the latest.

Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano in June said between "75 and 76 percent" of the engineering project is completed and a third set of locks to allow bigger ships to pass through the 50-mile (80-km) waterway should open in January 2016.

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Clyde Jenkins - Reportedly On His Deathbed in Colombia

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - The word from Colombia about Clyde Jenkins - who lived in Panama as a member of the English speaking community of expatriates for years - is not good. Reportedly, Clyde has been admitted to the hospital and the prognosis is not good.

Clyde traveled extensively around Panama while he was living here. He volunteered to help manage the Americans in Panama Yahoo email group as a moderator. A thankless job he did for years as the designated resident "bouncer" - Clyde would help me spot the perpetual trolls and toss them, to the betterment of the overall group and membership.

Clyde was a good friend, who made a long list of enemies by simply doing the right thing. I've already seen some malicious slander being put out against him, now that he can no longer defend himself.

I've only got one source of information for this, and have not been able to confirm independently. I tried to call his house and didn't get an answer so I will try again later. But at this point, it looks like Clyde might have typed his last email...

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com

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Condo Absorption in the Panama Real Estate Market

Real EstateTower 300 of Luxor is one of our favorite developments in Panama City, and clearly other people seem to agree, as the 40-story tower now has less than 8 units left for sale.

The Allure, a high-rise just off of Balboa Avenue we’ve been promoting since it started construction has four units remaining and less than 10 on the resale market at any given moment.

Casco View, one of our favorite developments in the Old Town, has more than 70% presold before the start of construction (planned for August 2014).

Rewind to 2009: Panama City was dotted with cranes and everyone was making references to another Dubai, a potentially overdeveloped market where supply had to exceed demand. “There has to be a bubble in this market, this city is overbuilt” were the comments from most visitors, no doubt referencing the bubble in their own markets back home.

And as we reported in our series of reports on new condos on Balboa Avenue, supply did in fact nearly double over a 24-month period from 2009-2011.

But a funny thing happened in Panama. Or more importantly, a funny thing DID NOT happen in Panama.

Prices never came down, and developers kept building. Actually, prices did come down about 10-20% during the financial crisis, but that’s a far cry from markets like Miami, Las Vegas, or Valencia Spain and more a function of the fact that Panama’s always been a market driven by foreign drivers.

So in effect, while we did experience a correction, it was more a function of demand slackening versus excess supply.

Undeniably, there are a few buildings that still have plenty of apartments for sale, but they are concentrated into a few (that I wont name in this article but would be HAPPY to tell you in an email) poorly built properties that only a few agencies are willing to sell. And most of the new projects are commercial developments, which is a cycle seen in many healthy real estate markets: commercial following residential.

Now the cranes in the city are to finish off hotels, office buildings, and new shopping centers versus four years ago when they were finishing the newly built towers you now see dotting our city skyline.

What we are seeing in 2014 is that pre-construction is once again hot and on the heels of a new president coming in and several other factors, we may be ready to go through another real estate cycle.

There are, of course, risks in buying pre-construction with the two main issues being if the market comes down below the strike price and if the development fails to be delivered. But precon is also the best way to hedge your bet by limiting equity instead of plunking down for the full price.

If you know your developer and understand the risks, then the reward can be lucrative and a $40,000 deposit can double over the time that it takes to deliver the project.

If you are interested in exploring the Panama real estate market for properties in construction, both on the beach or in the city, I’m always available at Kent@panamaequity.com. We know the developers, we know the prices, and we are always available to help.

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US soldier suspected of slaying Panamanian woman

Expat TalesPANAMA CITY, Panama — Activists in Panama are demanding that a career U.S. soldier suspected of killing a local woman be tried in local courts.

Master Sgt. Omar Velez is being held at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in connection with the murder of woman in her mid-20s whose body was found in Panama on June 23. He was charged in the military justice system Monday with unpremeditated murder, according to Army spokeswoman Kimberly Hanson. Velez has not made any public statements about the case and Hanson could not supply the name of his military defense attorney.

Joyce Araujo, president of the Foundation for Gender Equity in Panama, told The Associated Press Monday that she believes Velez’ diplomatic immunity allowed him to evade proper investigation.

Her group is among those in a coalition of women’s rights groups that expressed disappointment on Friday in the handling of the case, and demanded that local leaders reassert sovereignty.

“Diplomatic immunity cannot be an opening for impunity when it involves a crime as profound as the killing of women, especially a Panamanian woman on Panamanian soil,” the coalition wrote.

Velez, who has served in the military since 2000, held a leadership position as a senior non-commissioned officer. He was in Panama conducting training as part of a unit associated with the sale of military equipment when the killing occurred.

Local media report that Velez allegedly had been romantically involved with the woman and was discovered near her body with a shovel after an apparent crime of passion. (AP)

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Trial venue for military killing sparks outrage

Expat TalesBy Meredith Clark - An American soldier charged by the military with the murder of a 26-year-old woman in Panama will be tried in the United States, sparking protests by women’s groups and outraged family members.

Army Master Sergeant Omar Antonio Velez, 35, was charged by military authorities Monday with the “unpremeditated murder” of Vanessa Rodriguez and is currently being held in pre-trial confinement in North Carolina, according to Kim Hanson, an army spokeswoman. Velez was in Panama conducting trainings as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization.

Hanson confirmed to msnbc that Velez has been charged and is awaiting his Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian preliminary hearing. However, he was not charged with a crime in Panama because he had been issued a diplomatic passport, giving him immunity from local prosecution. Hanson also said that the military’s criminal investigation division is working on the case in conjunction with the Panamanian government.

The military “will fully investigate this incident and take appropriate action,” Hanson told msnbc in an email. The Army also “expresses its deepest regret” over Rodriguez’s death.

Velez allegedly shot and killed Rodriguez, with whom he reportedly had a relationship, before trying to hide her body. He was arrested on June 23, and, according to the Associated Press, he was found with a shovel near the quarry where the woman’s body was discovered.

A coalition of women’s rights groups in Panama has demanded that officials do something to bring Velez back for prosecution and asked that Rodriguez’s family have a voice in whatever judicial proceedings take place around the case.

On Friday, six women’s groups released a statement calling on Panamanian authorities to release information about Velez’s whereabouts and legal status, and requesting that the U.S. government conduct a thorough investigation and remove his diplomatic immunity. They also asked the United Nations to look into whether the U.S. and Panama are handling the case according to international women’s rights treaties.

“Immunity must not be impunity,” the statement said.

It is not unheard of for members of the military or contractors to receive protection and assistance from the U.S. Embassy. The White House said in June that President Obama had received diplomatic assurances that the soldiers being sent to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against militants would not be tried in Iraqi courts for actions they take while deployed there.

In 2011, American officials helped free CIA contractor Raymond Davis from Pakistani law enforcement after he shot and killed two men in Lahore and ran over another. Officials argued at the time that Davis also had diplomatic immunity; he was released from a Pakistani prison after the families of the dead men were given $2.34 million in “restitution.” (MSNBC)

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Family Members Don't Want Vanesa's Murder To Go Unpunished

Expat TalesThe relatives of Vanesa Rodriguez, who was allegedly murdered by a U.S. Army soldier of Puerto Rican descent, are keeping track of the case, and they do not want the crime to go unpunished. (more)

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River Pollution Leaves Thousands Without Drinking Water in Panama

Environmental IssuesThousands of Panamanians were left without drinking water on Friday, after a spill of a herbicide contaminated a major river in the interior. (more)

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Water From The La Villa River Remains Unfit For Human Consumption

HealthcareAfter the problems with pollution of the river La Villa, the regional director of Civil Protection System, José Donderis, announced through a press conference this afternoon that the government will continue to distribute potable water in Chitre and Los Santos until the competent authorities announce that the La Villa river water is fit for human consumption. (more)

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Navarro Bows To Pressure - Resigns From PRD's Top Post

PoliticsThose who have been creating pressure on the inside of the PRD have achieved their goal. The Secretary General of the party's National Executive Committee (CEN), Juan Carlos Navarro, officially resigned yesterday via Twitter. (more)

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Financial Pacific Refused To Submit Reports

Crime & PunishmentExecutives for the Financial Pacific brokerage house refused to provide details of their accounting records, preventing the market regulator from taking an accurate x-ray of the company's financial situation. (more)

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