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Panama financial hub image marred

Panama’s reputation as a world-class financial hub is being torn apart from the double scandals of the Panama Papers and now the US designating one of its most prominent families as top money launderers for drug cartels.

‘‘This is like a magnitude-10 earthquake for Panama’s economic system and society, but it shouldn’t be a surprise,’’ said Miguel Antonio Bernal, a professor in constitutional law at the University of Panama.

‘‘The country’s image has been damaged by these scandals,’’ said Francisco Bustamante, who used to work for the Inter-American Development Bank.

They and other analysts believe that, far from putting the scandals behind it, Panama could see them grow in the weeks and months ahead, subjecting the Central American nation to further international scrutiny and spooking investors.

The US announcement this week declaring members and associates of the Wakeds, a prominent family of Lebanese descent, to be among ‘‘the world’s most significant drug money launderers and criminal facilitators’’ was a bad blow on top of the Panama Papers revelations that emerged a month ago.

The US Treasury Department froze the US assets of Nidal Ahmed Waked Hatum and Abdul Mohamed Waked Fares and those of many of their businesses, which span real estate, luxury shops, hotels, a bank, media and duty-free outlets.

Colombia arrested Waked Hatum on Wednesday and said it would extradite him to the United States, where he faces money laundering and bank fraud charges.

Meanwhile, the Panama Papers revelations about how many of the world’s wealthy shoved assets into offshore entities look set to deepen.

A US-based journalists’ collective that has been poring over the 11.5 million documents plundered from the servers of a secretive Panamanian law firm is to release many of them online on Monday.

And the US government and European countries are stepping up measures against countries seen to be ‘‘havens’’ for tax avoiders and money-launderers.

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