The National Bank of Panama (BNP) warned on Thursday that it could enter into "technical bankruptcy" if a million-dollar lawsuit filed against it by the tycoon Abdul Waked prospers, to whom the United States pointed out in 2016 for allegedly laundering drug money.
The manager of the state entity, Rolando de León, explained in different local media that the capital of the bank is more than 800 million dollars and that Waked claims compensation of 1,268 million dollars for alleged "damages and prejudices".
"If the State does not come out in front of this and the national bank has to assume it, the national bank for the amount of the demand that exceeds its current capital would have to declare itself in a technical bankruptcy", the banker said in an interview on Radio Panama.
The BNP performs some central bank functions, although it cannot issue banknotes since the legal currency in Panama is the US dollar, and its bankruptcy would cause a "crisis" throughout the country, de León warned.
The issue dates back to May 5, 2016, when the Lebanese tycoon and his companies were included by the US Treasury in the so-called Clinton List for allegedly laundering money from drug trafficking.
The inclusion in the list is a kind of commercial death, since it prevents US citizens and companies from having commercial relations with him and his companies.
To save companies and jobs, the United States and the employer agreed to sell some companies or temporarily transfer the shares of others to a trust managed by the National Bank of Panama.
That was the case of the Félix B.Maduro stores and the luxurious Soho Mall, which were finally sold to other economic groups.
Waked, then one of Panama's most powerful businessmen, now alleges in the lawsuit, which was filed in the Supreme Court last June and admitted months later, that he was pressured by the government and the financial entity to part with the Soho Mall and that movement generated an economic loss of 1,268 million dollars.
The businessman already sued the Panamanian State and the state bank in July 2017 for 165 million dollars for the alleged damage caused by the trust of the Félix B.Maduro stores, but the complaint was not admitted.
The Banking Association of Panama (ABP) denounced on Thursday in a statement that the admission of a complaint and the rejection of another denotes "lack of consistency" and "erodes public confidence in actions called to ensure legal security".
The same Third Chamber of the Supreme Court decided in July 2017 that the lawsuit filed Waked against BNP "for the same situation with respect to the trust formed for the case of stores known as Felix B.Maduro, also included in the Clinton List (...) was inadmissible", said the Association.
"According to that ruling, the BNP had not fulfilled any public function nor was it, for that purpose, a public entity, but had acted like any authorized merchant bank in the market", he recalled.
The Association also explained that "fiduciary activity is very common" in the commercial world and that the state bank acted in two cases as a fiduciary and "did not engage in any activity related to public service".