Panama airport places $575 million bond after probe hits issue

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[May 14, 2016]  PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama City's main airport said on Friday it had successfully placed a $575 million bond after a company forming a major source of income for the hub became embroiled in a money-laundering probe, prompting the issue to be restructured.

Originally earmarked for $625 million, the bond for Tocumen International Airport was pared back after the U.S. Treasury Department accused members of the Waked family of running a money laundering operation that helped drug traffickers.

The Wakeds, who have denied the accusations, control Grupo Wisa, a holding company that includes real estate, construction and media businesses, as well as retailers including operators of duty free shops at Tocumen International.

The airport said that last year, rents from Grupo Wisa made up 7.7 percent of its revenue.

The coupon on the bond, which is due to mature in 2036, was raised to 5.625 percent from 5.375 percent.

The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) alleged that the operation, led by two members of the Waked family, helped various drug trafficking outfits hide their illicit income via 68 companies including Grupo Wisa.

Separately on Friday, the U.S. Treasury said it had issued licenses authorizing certain transactions to be carried out by Balboa Bank & Trust, which was seized by Panama's banking regulator as part of the money-laundering investigation.

In the statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it had also issued licenses to Balboa Securities, Corp. It did not give details on why the licenses had been issued.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno and Enrique Pretel; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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