By Elida Moreno and Valentine Hilaire
PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama’s lawmakers have passed a bill to regulate the use and trade of cryptocurrencies, which have been challenged by international organizations, just as the country is trying to put money laundering scandals behind it.
Panama has twice been gray-listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for its shortcomings in the fight against money laundering. His last entry took place in June 2019 and authorities insisted on his willingness to leave.
The bill opens the door to the public and private use of such assets and will allow people to pay their taxes with cryptocurrencies.
The legislation is broader in scope than measures passed by El Salvador, which last year made bitcoin legal tender, said independent lawmaker and bill promoter Gabriel Silva.
Among other things, the bill covers the trading and use of crypto assets, issuance of digital securities and new payment systems. “We’re seeing the emergence of many different types of crypto assets, like works of art. That’s why we don’t want to limit ourselves to just cryptocurrencies,” Silva said.
Under the new legislation, Panamanians can use cryptocurrencies as a means of payment for any civil or commercial transaction not prohibited by law in the country.
“Only 45% of Panamanians have bank accounts, but the country’s internet penetration rate is as high as 72%. Cryptocurrencies can help the unbanked,” said Belisario Castillo Saenz, chief executive of digital asset creation company Feanor Corp. .
The bill could also force banks to be more cooperative and fair in their use of these assets, said José Fabrega, a member of the Cryptos Panama group.
The bill, which now passes to Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo to be signed, was approved in Congress with 38 votes in favor, two abstentions and no votes against.