RYMUR Serial 2654
Jul 14, 1981 • 1420 • Panama-State • 6410

(Editor’s note: This is a cable from the files of the State Department that was included in the FBI’s 2009 RYMUR release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act. It was not included in the State Department’s own release, but we have included identifying information for it using the agency’s designations.)

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[Listing of agencies receiving informational copies on pdf]

R 141420Z APR 81
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5566
INFO PANCANAL COMM
USCINCSO
DEPTREAS WASHDC
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE PANAMA 06410
DEPT PASS JUSTICE FOR [name deleted], CRIMINAL DIVISION
E.O. 12065: NA
TAGS: EGEN, PM
SUBJECT: STATUS OF THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE CASE: WRAP-UP

1. The only action pending in this case is that of transferring the contents of a safety deposit box in a local bank which is already been opened and inventoried to the curator [Receiver] of the People’s Temple in California. The box contains a large number of documents relating to the People’s Temple and US dols. 60,000 cash. It was in the name of Carolyn Leitlin [Layton], one of the victims at Jonestown. The Panamanian Supreme Court has ruled that the contents must be turned over to the curator, and this will be done soon. There is another box in the name of one of the survivors, an attorney Eduardo Ferrer believes that there is nothing in this box, and that it has not been used in several years.

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WM [2.] It may be useful to summarize the outcome of efforts to obtain possession, on behalf of the curator of the People’s Temple, of the funds deposited in local banks. Originally, all of the funds were in the name of a corporation, the Religious Association of San Pedro. The charter of this Corporation stated that the funds could not be transferred to a private person’s account. This was done, however, shortly before the tragedy in Jonestown. All of the individuals in whose accounts the funds were transferred died at Jonestown, and there was a possibility that their heirs might try to withdraw the money. The Attorney General of Panama argued at the behest of our lawyer that a crime had been committed in Panama, e.g., the illegal transfer of funds to private accounts, and in 1979 he ordered the funds returned to the People’s Temple account. The lawyers for the bank asserted that the bank could not comply because the Attorney General did not have the power to issue such an order. The case was referred to the Supreme Court of Panama, which eventually ruled that the Attorney General did in fact have this power and that the bank had to comply. The bank involved, the Union Bank of Switzerland, eventually released some U.S. dols. 5 million, which was transferred to the curator of the People’s Temple in California in March 1980.

3. Because records in the opened safety deposit box, which had been photographed, contained details of financial transactions with other banks, it was possible to recover other funds from the Swiss

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Bank Corp in Panama, which voluntarily gave up some U.S. dols. 2 million after being questioned directly about specific deposits.

Moss

Originally posted on November 17th, 2020.

Last modified on July 21st, 2022.
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