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Friday, August 22 2014 @ 03:39 PM EDT

Anabelle Villamonte Will Spend The Weekend In Jail

CorruptionThe former director of Land Titling of the National Land Authority (ANATI) Anabelle Villamonte will spent the weekend in jail and on Monday she will continue with her third day of questioning. This, after the Attorney General filed formal charges against her for crimes against the environment as part of the investigation into the granting of land titles in the area of Juan Hombrón, province of Cocle. The Attorney General ordered Villamonte's arrest on Thursday afternoon. The second day of questioning (yesterday) lasted about six hours according to Villamonte's defense attorney Guillermina McDonald, who said her client explained her functions as the National Director of Titling and Regulation of Lands as part of the institution, and the flow chart of how each application for title was handled. She was also asked about the creation of corporations formed by Villamonte before she became a public official.

According to McDonald, Villamonte, before being hired to work in the ANATI, was hired by a private attorney to get the land and to make the arrangements under the prior law. Among the evidence presented by Villamonte's defense attorney was a memo she prepared as the Director of Land Titling of the ANATI, which raised a query to the Legal Department of the Tax Office, in order to know if she should declare herself as impeded, because as a private lawyer she had known about the petitions for title that were coming to her office, and if she should authorize them. McDonald explained that the memorandum details that Villamonte was the person who would have to sign the authorizations for the land titles, and she could not be replaced. "She raised this query to know whether or not she was entitled to sign these procedures," she said.

She added her client is charged for alleged award of protected areas, mangroves, among others, when in fact these lands were not in protected areas, but in adjacent areas. In addition, the defense presented yesterday a formal application for bail for Villamonte before the Causes Settlement Court in Cocle, where the investigation started. The procedures to refer the case to this court, which must analyze the request, were initiated by the General Secretariat of the Attorney General's Office.

Upon leaving the Attorney General's office, after being questioned for nearly six hours, Villamonte issued no word to the media and this time she went through the main entrance of the institution. According to her lawyer Villamonte was denied special request to attend the graduation of a family member. In this case five complaints have been filed. One by the Center for Environmental Advocacy, which indicates that 97% of the Pacific coast is mangrove forests, and in Juan Hombrón are located one of the main reservoirs of mangroves in the country. (Panama America)

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