Panama's federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the Trump Organization on Monday following the escalation of a dispute over the management of Panama City's Trump International Hotel, The Washington Post reports. The probe has sparked concerns because President Trump still technically owns the organization that shares his name, although his sons oversee the day-to-day operations. "The fear has always been that there would be an international incident involving the finances of the president, and the president would have his loyalties questioned," explained Jordan Libowitz of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
The Panama probe follows unsuccessful attempts by the Trump International Hotel's majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, to fire the Trump Organization, which has managed the hotel since it opened in 2011. Fintiklis argues that the Trump Organization has poorly managed the hotel and that the undesirability of the Trump brand has hurt revenue, while the Trump Organization says its contract is still valid.
Fintiklis went as far as to physically attempt to reclaim the hotel — the Trump Organization accused him of "thug-like, mob-style tactics" — eventually escalating in Fintiklis defiantly playing the piano in the hotel lobby and Trump guards blocking the entrance to the service floor. Fintiklis at last turned to Panamanian prosecutors, citing the Trump Organization's "intimidation and threats."
The local investigators made clear that they are willing to request information from foreign entities as needed. CREW's Libowitz has wondered "what kind of pressure would [Trump] be willing to place" on the Panamanian government as president.
"Panama's government receives financial support for counter-narcotics work from the United States," notes the Los Angeles Times, and "Panama is currently seeking to extradite its former president, Ricardo Martinelli, from the United States to face espionage and embezzlement charges." Jeva Lange