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US govt extends special licence for seized Panama bank Balboa

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, February 02, 2017

The US government has extended a license permitting Panama's Balboa Bank & Trust and Balboa Securities, now undergoing liquidation, to access US financial markets until April 7.

The license, which was set to expire Friday, was modified to facilitate the sale, disposition and/or transfer of assets for both entities.

Panamanian banking regulator SBP took administrative and operating control of the bank and brokerage in May last year, after the US treasury department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) identified the companies as part of the "Waked Money Laundering Organization" (WMLO) network.

"We applaud the efforts by the regulators in taking steps to address these matters, carrying them out as charged," read a statement from OFAC, reported in local outlet En Mayúscula.

Business operations came to a halt after Nidal Waked, then-treasurer for Balboa, was arrested in Colombia in May and then extradited to the US for his alleged leadership role in a massive and long-running money laundering operation. The US authorities have also accused his uncle, Abdul Waked, of playing a key role in the operation.

With Balboa's operations halted and debts to bondholders pending last October, shareholders mandated holding company Strategic Investors to sell off the companies' assets in order to make the debt payments.

SBP released a statement on January 30 saying it was extending time for the Balboa liquidation process, which had completed three out of five steps under an approved plan.

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