According the Wikipedia the word carpetbagger has it’s roots in the reconstruction period in the Southern United States, the description is alive and well in Panama with some twists.
“In United States history, carpetbagger was a pejorative term Southerners gave to Northerners (also referred to as Yankees) who moved to the South during the Reconstruction era, between 1865 and 1877.
The term referred to the observation that these newcomers tended to carry “carpet bags,” a common form of luggage at the time (sturdy and made from used carpet). It was used as a derogatory term, suggesting opportunism and exploitation by the outsiders.”
“In sum, carpetbaggers were seen as insidious Northern outsiders with questionable objectives meddling in local politics, buying up plantations at fire-sale prices and taking advantage of Southerners.“
Many of the new immigrants to Panama come to live with a lower cost of living and we certainly do try to acquire property at what compared to the North would be fire sale prices, but this post is not about us, them. This post is about the expats who come here to defraud other expats who come to Panama.
It is considered very dangerous to write anything negative about anyone in Panama, free speech in the media is tempered by lawsuits under the Calumnia e Injuria laws which generally allow anyone to file criminal and civil charges against anyone for defamation even if the defamation is warranted by the facts being true. The law, common to much of Latin America chills the media from saying much.
I have been wanting to expose some of the people who pray on new immigrants for some time, I too have been tempered. This past week I listened to a story from a man who lent $140 to an expat in need, that expat thanked him for the loan and now refuses to repay it. There are petty con men who ask for a loan and do not repay it, there are expats who contract for labor and do not pay the bill and the locals who do the same. All of the above can occur since the judicial system here is at best slow. I say at best because cables released by Wikileaks also stated that the US Embassy believed it to be corrupt on all levels.
These are petty criminals compared to the real carpetbaggers, the ones who are accused of stealing the life savings of new immigrants. Some people who, for what ever reason fail to due their due diligence before turning over thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to someone they barely know to buy some property. They fail to do their homework, they trust the seller who might not even own the property being sold. These people fail to hire a lawyer, they fail to investigate, they trust. The type of carpetbagger who does that is sophisticated, eloquent and called a con man.
Under the law in Panama I am allowed to report items made public by the courts of Panama. Using this I would like to make the community aware of an order from the Forth Circuit Court in the Provence of Chiriqui. The order dated July 4 2011 is about a man many might know, Royston Martin Knigth. He was called to appear for trial on charges of fraud against another expat for selling land that does not exist, for more than $ 20,000.00. The judge imposed an injunction that can not leave the country until the end of the trial.
The trial will prove innocence or guilt, maybe, but the fact that a judge has seen enough merit to prohibit Mr. Knigth from leaving the country until the trial makes for a legal fact.
As I learn more I will write about it.