PANAMA CITY – The Panamanian government hailed as “good news” Thursday’s announcement by the U.S. Treasury Department of a six-month extension of authorization for Panama’s GESE newspaper group to continue operating despite sanctions against its owners for alleged money laundering.
Last May, the Treasury Department accused Abdul Waked, owner of Waked International S.A., of laundering proceeds from drug trafficking.
That designation was accompanied by legal and financial sanctions against all of Waked’s enterprises.
In June, Treasury authorized GESE – which publishes La Estrella and El Siglo newspapers – and a Waked shopping mall to continue operating for six months. Those authorizations were extended on Thursday for six months and two months, respectively, just as the dailies were preparing to shut down.
“Extension of the GESE license is positive news that protects jobs, the government team will continue working for the employees,” Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said on Twitter.
Panama lobbied the US Treasury Department to extend the licenses for GESE and the SoHo Mall.
The management of Waked International needs to take advantage of the extensions “to seek a sustainable exit” from the current situation, Vice President Isabel De Saint Malo said.
More than 60 firms have been affected by the inclusion of Abdul Waked on what is known as the Clinton List, including major retailer Felix B. Maduro, which now operates free of restrictions as the property of a trust.
Pointing to the example of Felix B. Maduro, De Saint Malo said Monday that GESE and Waked International need to take “longer-term” steps to ensure the newspapers can continue publishing.