His name may be gone but Trump’s Panama hotel troubles are far from over

Lawmakers want answers from the DEA.

What's in a name, anyway? CREDIT: GETTY / STR
What's in a name, anyway? CREDIT: GETTY / STR

President Donald Trump may have watched his name come down from his former property in Panama this month — but his troubles stemming from years of alleged cartel money laundering at the property aren’t yet over.

On Monday, in a letter obtained by ThinkProgress, Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) sent a note to Robert Patterson, the current acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), calling for a briefing about what the DEA knows regarding allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering at Trump’s former Panama property, which was known up until this month as the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Torres and Engel, both members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Patterson they were writing “to express our grave concern about past instances of narcotics-related money laundering in Panama’s real estate sector, as well as the possibility that this criminal activity may have tainted the Panama business interests of the Trump Organization, and, by extension, of President Trump, leading to possible conflicts of interest that would be of serious concern to us and to the Committee.”

The two congressional officials asked Patterson to schedule, “at the earliest date possible,” a briefing for the entire committee on the topic — including, specifically, “whether the Drug Enforcement Administration is aware of any significant narcotics traffickers who are, or who at any time have been, the direct or beneficial owners of units” at the property in Panama.

The DEA hasn’t yet responded to the request.

The reference from Torres and Engel to “beneficial owners” is a nod to the numerous shell companies that purchased units in the property, many of which contained the word “Trump” in their names. “Beneficial owners” often remain anonymous, but, legally speaking, are the individuals identified as the primary beneficiaries of the units.

As it to pertains to the property in Panama, which is now known as the Bahia Grand, the signs of cartel money laundering were obvious from the hotel’s inception. As a 2017 report from Global Witness found, cartels regularly laundered funds in the hotel — and Trump, his family, and his business partners apparently turned a blind eye to all of the signs of money laundering evident, ranging from anonymous shell companies to units purchased in bulk with cash.


Unfortunately for the president, the letter is the latest move in what has been a bizarre, and ignominious, series of events at Trump’s former property in Panama. The property’s majority owner recently booted Trump Hotels from its management position at the hotel — but not after Trump Hotels staff scuffled with a rival security crew, and after numerous water and electricity shut-offs decimated occupancy rates.

The Trump Organization, which Trump described as his daughter Ivanka’s “baby,” told ThinkProgress last week that the matter over management at the property was not yet settled.

The Trump Organization, however, still has not responded to a separate letter from Torres and Engel. That letter, dated February 27, requested information on what the Trump Organization knew about the money laundering taking place at the Trump Panama property — and when they knew it.

So far, though, Engel and Torres haven’t received any response. “We still haven’t heard a word,” a spokesperson for Torres told ThinkProgress.