Dec 20, 78 • 0010 • State-Panama • 319415

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1522 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978STATE319415_d.html.

[The information originally withheld by the State Department is indicated below in red type.]

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STATE 319415
ORIGIN JUSE-00
INFO OCT-01 ARA-11 EUR-12 ISO-00 L-03 SPTA-02 H-01
TRSE-00 FBIE-00 SCS-06 CA-01 SS-15 SSO-00 /052 R
DRAFTED BY JUSTICE:J.HERGIN:JV
APPROVED BY L:L.M.MARKS
ARA – J. BUSHNELL
L/ARA – T. FORTUNE
DESIRED DISTRIBUTION
JUSTICE – J. HERGIN
——————061829 200125Z /62

O 200010Z DEC 78
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY PANAMA IMMEDIATE
INFO AMEMBASSY BERN IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN IMMEDIATE
LIMITED OFFICIAL USE STATE 319415
E.O. 12065: N/A
TAGS: CASC, OREP (RYAN, LEO), GY
SUBJECT: PEOPLES TEMPLE BANK ACCOUNTS
REF: PANAMA 09219

1. DEPARTMENT GRATEFUL TO EMBASSY FOR INFORMATION PROVIDED REFTEL.

2. CONSIDERING STRONG USG [U.S. GOVERNMENT] INTEREST IN OBTAINING RESTITUTION FROM PEOPLES TEMPLE FOR COSTS INCURRED IN BY THE US GOVERNMENT, EMBASSY THROUGH AIDE MEMOIRE SHOULD NOTE CONTACTS WITH GOP [GOVERNMENT OF PANAMA] TO DATE ON THIS SUBJECT, AND FORMALLY THANK GOP FOR AGREEING TO LEND ITS “GOOD OFFICES” TO USG

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EFFORTS TO BLOCK BANK ACCOUNTS. (FYI. PRESUMABLY, SUCH “GOOD OFFICES” WOULD EXTEND TO INFORMAL DISCUSSIONS WITH UBS [UNION BANK OF SWITZERLAND] AND SBC [SWISS BANK CORPORATION] LOCAL OFFICIALS CONCERNING PARTICULARS OF THE VARIOUS ACCOUNTS. PLEASE ADVISE. END FYI).

3. EMBASSY SHOULD ALSO TRANSMIT FORTHWITH TO RESPONSIBLE OFFICERS FOR UBS AND SBC LETTERS, THE TEXT OF WHICH FOLLOWS:

BEGIN TEXT: THE EMBASSY APPRECIATES THE ACTIONS WHICH YOU HAVE TAKEN TO DATE TO CONSERVE AND PREVENT POSSIBLE IMPROPER DISPERSAL OF VARIOUS ACCOUNTS WHICH ARE SAID TO BE MAINTAINED AT YOUR BANK BY THE PEOPLES TEMPLE OR ITS OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, MEMBERS OR RELATED ENTITIES.

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES HAS A SUBSTANTIAL MONETARY CLAIM AGAINST THE PEOPLES TEMPLE FOR COSTS INCURRED IN CONNECTION WITH THE TRAGEDY AT JONESTOWN, GUYANA. TO THAT END, THE UNITED STATES INTENDS TO PURSUE ALL AVAILABLE LEGAL REMEDIES WHICH IT MAY HAVE AGAINST THE PEOPLES TEMPLE, EITHER IN PANAMA OR ELSEWHERE.

CONSIDERING THE UNPRECEDENTED CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE JONESTOWN TRAGEDY, TOGETHER WITH THE CONFUSED FINANCES OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE, WE ARE OF THE VIEW THAT WE SHARE WITH YOUR BANK A MUTUAL INTEREST IN COOPERATING IN THIS MATTER TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE. IN CONSEQUENCE, IF YOUR BANK COULD FURNISH US WITH THE NECESSARY PARTICULARS REGARDING THE ACCOUNTS, WE, IN TURN, WOULD UNDERTAKE TO PROVIDE YOU WITH WHATEVER INFORMATION YOU MIGHT REQUIRE TO CONFIRM THE STATUS OF THE DESIGNATED ACCOUNT HOLDERS, SIGNATORIES, BENEFICIAL OWNERS, ETC. (E.G., EVIDENCE OF DEATH OR DISSOLUTION).

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IN VIEW OF THE CONFUSION SURROUNDING THE STATUS OF THE ACCOUNTS, THE EMBASSY BELIEVES THAT THEY SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE MAINTAINED IN A BLOCKED STATUS.

WE WOULD APPRECIATE RECEIVING YOUR VIEWS AND POSITION ON THE FOREGOING PROPOSALS AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. (COMPLIMENTARY CLOSE) END TEXT.

4. RE PARA 3, REFTEL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS BEEN ADVISED BY SWISS BANKING OFFICIALS THAT THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THEIR PANAMANIAN BRANCHES, WHICH OPERATE INDEPENDENTLY. PLEASE CONFIRM.

5. RE PARA. 4A REFTEL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IS CONSIDERING GONZALEZ’ [MINISTER OF PLANNING AND ECONOMY GONZALEZ, EXEC SEC OF PANAMANIAN BANKING COMMISSION DE DIEGO] SUGGESTION THAT USG RETAIN LOCAL COUNSEL. DEPARTMENT WOULD WELCOME EMBASSY’S RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING WHO USG SHOULD RETAIN.

6. RE PARA. 4B, REFTEL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IS EAGER TO DO WHATEVER WOULD BE NECESSARY TO “REINFORCE” ACCOUNT BLOCKINGS BY UBS AND SBC. PLEASE SPECIFY PRECISELY WHAT DOCUMENTATION WILL BE NECESSARY TO “SUPPORT” SWISS BANKS.

7. ACTION AND INFO ADDRESSEES: PLEASE ADD DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, JIM HERGIN, FOR DISTRIBUTION ON RESPONSES CONCERNING PEOPLES TEMPLE.

VANCE [CYRUS VANCE, SECRETARY OF STATE]

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Originally posted on March 25th, 2020.

Last modified on July 6th, 2022.
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