The force behind the recent campaign, coming from Panama's business community, to convince the National Bank of Panama to open a branch in New York, and to become the correspondent bank for the country's financial institutions, is none other than the powerful Syrian organized crime syndicate that dominates local banks. Syndicate-owned and controlled banks in Panama City, in danger of losing, or already lost, their New York correspondent accounts, are clamoring for such a captive, cooperating place to move money into the United States, without what they deem to be excessive compliance, meaning adequate screening.
For those who wonder why such a country-specific name is attached to this organized crime group, many of the families who compose its members originally came from Aleppo, or are their descendants. These families have intermarried, which are effectively mergers, rather than traditional couplings, and as a result, there are several interlocking ownerships of many of Panama's banks, particularly those known to be engaged in money laundering.
This syndicate is reported to be so powerful, that its wishes are generally granted by senior officials in the Republic of Panama Government, hence this bold request to use the state-owned National Bank of Panama (not a central bank), to replace the lost correspondent relationships of syndicate-owned banks, in the New York banking center.