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Panama Government Investigates Companies Linked to Qatar Elites while Conducting Business with Qatari State

Posted: December 17th, 2018

Image of First Page of AML Letter (Spanish)

A public record obtained by reveals that a division of Panama’s Ministry of Economy and Finance has requested information on three corporations linked to the former Emir and the former Prime Minister of Qatar.

The government division is called the Intendance for Supervision and Regulation of Non-Financial Subjects (La Intendencia de Supervisión y Regulación de Sujetos no Financieros). The Intendance is responsible for preventing money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and the funding of weapons of mass destruction. (SOURCE)

On 7 March 2017, the Intendance sent a letter to the government-run Panamanian corporate registry stating that its regulatory unit had “filed a Sanctioning Process for alleged breaches of Law 23 of April 27, 2015” and required information on 34 firms – including the names of directors, legal representatives, and resident agents, in addition to addresses of the companies and corporate charters.

Among the 34 firms were Knibos Consulting S.A., Notart Consulting S.A., and Yalis S.A. The only directors or beneficial owners identified in connection with the three firms are the former Emir and the former Prime Minister of Qatar.

Of particular note is Yalis. Yalis S.A. was 75% owned by the seventh Emir of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Hamad Al-Thani, as of July 2013. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani (“HBJ”) – the former Prime Minister of Qatar (2007-2013) and CEO of the Qatar Investment Authority (2005-2013) – owned the other 25%.

No publicly available evidence indicates that the men divested from Yalis, however, the firm dissolved in December 2017.

Knibos Consulting S.A. and Notart Consulting S.A. remain active firms.

Image of Yalis S.A. Minutes
Image showing shareholding of Yalis S.A.

Panama government is conducting business with Qatar Investment Authority

While the Intendance for Supervision and Regulation of Non-Financial Subjects looks into the three companies linked to Qatari royalty, the Panamanian government is conducting business with the Qatari state.

The Qatar Investment Authority—through its wholly owned real estate development subsidiary Qatari Diar—is working with London & Regional Properties Limited, a Colombian billionaire named Jaime Gilinski, and the Panamanian government to build a master-planned city of 20,000 new residential properties called Panama Pacifico, located on the banks of the Panama Canal.

Map showing location of Panama Pacifico investment

The estimated $1 billion Panama Pacifico investment by QIA’s subsidiary occurred in 2010 as HBJ presided over both the QIA (as its CEO) and Qatari Diar (as its Chairman).

Panama Pacifico describes itself as “a public-private alliance” between the Panamanian State and wealthy foreigners, but it is much more than that. Panama Pacifico is the largest mixed-use development on the planet, and the Qatari sovereign wealth fund is 50% owner.

Qatari Diar list Panama Pacifico among its current projects, and per its website:

The Panama Pacifico project is a mixed-use 1,913 hectare [7.4 square mile] master planned community based in the country’s Special Economic Zone. Situated on the former US Howard Air Force Base, the project’s prime location allows for direct access to downtown Panama City, the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. With the initial construction phase complete, approximately 125,000 sqm of office and industrial warehouse space, as well as 127,000 sqm of residential space, have either been rented or sold.

When completed, the planned city will include 20,000 new residential properties, a university campus, schools, parks, a golf course, a shopping mall, a hospital, and even an airport.

Map rendering of Panama Pacifico project show various features

The Panama Pacifico project began in 2004 when Panama’s government passed a law to create a special economic zone (i.e. grant economic concessions and tax breaks) on the site of Howard Air Force Base to incentivize foreign investment. Subsequently, the Panamanian government invited the World Bank to run an international auction to select a developer of the site in order to assure a transparent tender process. In 2007, a partnership between politically connected father and son, Colombian developers Isaac and Jaime Gilinski, and one of Europe’s largest privately held property companies called London & Regional won the right to build with an investment bid of £355 million (then worth $705 million). The Times of London reported that the site was earmarked for new homes, hotels, and a golf course along with a massive new trading hub, known as a “multimodal port”.

Jaime Gilinski has strong ties to Panama. His wife was born into a prominent Panamanian family, and Gilinski has owned a small bank on the isthmus since 1994. Today he serves as a political affairs attaché at the Panamanian embassy in London. (SOURCE)

Following the winning bid in early 2007, Panama Pacifico began construction in 2008.

Primary sources

While it is unclear if the Intendance requested that the corporate registry provide non-public information about the companies, has examined the publically available materials retained by the corporate registry. The matters above are corroborated by Panamanian state records from the nation’s corporate registry.

According to records, Jaime Gilinski and Ian Livingstone incorporated London & Regional (Panama) S.A. in December 2006.

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing header Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing company name

Ian Livingstone was named the firm’s President and Jaime Gilinski was its Vice President. Although the officers and board were shuffled over time, Livingstone and Gilinski remain key principals today.

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing company officers

While construction began on Panama Pacifico in 2008, the global recession struck at the same time. Global markets had collapsed, and the last thing international investors wanted to buy was real estate. This limited London & Regional (Panama) to investments in basic infrastructure such as building roads, stop signs and streetlights, upgrading water pumps and electrical systems.

With American and European markets failing, Livingstone and Gilinski scanned globe and headed to the one part of the world that was still riding high—the Middle East. In 2008 the price of oil peaked at $140 per barrel, nearly three times the price today. It took until 2010 to strike a deal.

In late 2010, the wholly owned real estate development subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority bought a 50% stake in Panama Pacifico for an estimated $1 billion, according to Forbes (although Livingstone disputes this price). That left the Gilinskis and Livingstones with 25% each.

The QIA subsidiary was Qatari Diar Real Estate Company, established in 2005. As of 2018, Qatari Diar reports 60 projects under development around the world with a combined value of over US$35 billion. (SOURCE)

Following QIA’s 2010 acquisition of half of the Panama Pacifico project, Qatari representatives were installed on the board of directors at London & Regional (Panama) S.A.

In July 2011, to former board members were replaced by Yousuf Ahmad H. Al Hammadi and Mohammed Ali H.H. Al Adba—both of Qatari Diar.

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing motion appointing new directors

In March 2013, Al Hammadi and Al Adba were replaced by Stephen James Pettit (Chairman of Qatari Diar Americas Inc.) and Nasser Hassen F.H. Al Ansari (a director associated with Qatari Diar).

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing second motion appointing new directors

In May of 2014, Pettit and Al Ansari were replaced by Salman Al Mohannadi and Jassim Hamad N.J. Al Thani. Mohannadi is the CEO of Barwa Real Estate Co QSC, a 45% subsidiary of Qatari Diar. Jassim Hamad N.J. Al Thani is a member of the Al Thani royal family.

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing third motion appointing new directors

In June 2017, Mohannadi was replaced by Nabbel Mohammed A.R. Al-Buenain, believed to be the former project executive director of New Doha Port Project.

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing fourth change of director

And finally in September 2018, Jassim Hamad N.J. Al Thani and Al-Buenain were replaced by Abdulla Hamad A.A. Al-Attiyah and Tariq Khalid A.A. Al-Abdulla. Al-Attiyah is the former deputy prime minister of Qatar and the head of the Emir's court, called the Amiri Diwan. Al-Abdulla is a director of Qatari Diar.

Document excerpt for London & Regional (Panama) S.A. showing fifth change of directors

As of late 2016, Forbes reported the entire Panama Pacifico property is worth an estimated $3.6 billion, with land selling at more than 25 times its original price. Gilinski and Livingstone had already constructed close to 1,000 buildings, but 85% of Panama Pacifico remained undeveloped land. The Qatari Partners stand poised to be critical financial backers of the development.

Jassim Hamad N.J. Al Thani

Jassim Hamad N.J. Al Thani is a member of the Al Thani royal family. He became a director of London & Regional (Panama) S.A. in May of 2014. He remained at the helm of London & Regional (Panama) S.A until September 2018.

Also known as Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Bin Nasser Al Thani, he is a board member of Qatar First Bank LLC. In 2012, he was appointed as Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company’s Regional Director for Europe and the Americas—at the age of 27.

Sheikh Jassim was born 20 October 1985. will be posting further information about Sheikh Jassim soon.

Picture of Sheikh Jassim with name, title, and biography

Look for more details on corporate assets and holdings of the Qatari elite in future posts.