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Saturday, April 19 2014 @ 07:56 AM EDT

Torrijos Quits PARLACEN To Avoid Supreme Court Trial

CorruptionThe former President Martin Torrijos Espino, in a letter sent to the President of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), Manuel De Jesús Pichardo on 16 July 2012, submitted his resignation as member of that regional organization, after the "prosecuting judge" Abel Zamorano, who is leading the investigation against the former president for alleged crimes against public service, asked the full Supreme Court of Justice in Panama to call him to trial. Torrijos, in the document sent to Pichardo, stated: "I appeal before you to submit for consideration to the Board of Directors my decision to resign as a Deputy of the Central American Parliament." The president also states: "Let me explain the reasons why I am forced to resign the office."

The resignation, once received by the Central American Parliament, must be evaluated by the regional body, and their answer will be communicated to both the applicant and the Government of the Republic of Panama, and certified by the Electoral Tribunal, so the Supreme Court can proceed with the case as required by law. Later, in the letter Torrijos explains part of the process against him for alleged payments made to Deputies (in the National Assembly of Panama) in 2001, when he was the Secretary General of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), in order to obtain the approval of the International Multimodal Service Center (CEMIS).

Process - Once the formalities for the the resignation of Torrijos from his position as a Deputy in the Central American Parliament are completed, the case for alleged crimes against public administration - specifically, for the corruption of public servants - against him must be sent by the full body of the Supreme Court of Justice to a Criminal Circuit Court, because they will no longer have jurisdiction to prosecute Torrijos, because he is no longer a Deputy (in the PARLACEN) and what's more, he does not hold any public office with nationwide authority and jurisdiction.

On 10 July, the judge Zamorano referred his "prosecutor's opinion" to the full body of the Supreme Court, recommending they should call Torrijos to trial, and he also requested they should apply a precautionary measure in the form of a ban preventing him from leaving the country without the approval of the court, and to make him report regularly to the appropriate court. This request, however, could be assessed by the circuit court where the CEMIS file of record rests, related to the process against Torrijos.

The prosecutor in his final recommendation in this case, which has been investigated since 2002, holds that in the process there is sufficient evidence to open a criminal case against Martin Torrijos, and what's more he sought the imposition of preventative measures, with the primary objective of ensuring Torrijos's appearance at all stages of the process until its completion, and to avoid delaying situations that constitute an obstacle to the prompt processing the of case against him. "We have succeeded in proving the existence of the crime of corruption of public servants as well as the active, voluntary and willful participation of Martín Torrijos Espino, who seeking his personal illegal gain, negotiated the delivery of money to the legislators of the National Assembly for the realization of an act related to their duties, and causing an adverse effect on the democratic institutions and the national economy," argued the prosecutor.

Destiny - The Fourth Circuit Criminal Court could be the fate of the case against Martin Torrijos, because that court office has had prior knowledge of the CEMIS record because there are proceedings against Stephen Jones and Joseph Martin Rodin, the executives of the San Lorenzo consortium, the promoter of the Multimodal Industrial and Service Center (CEMIS). Recently, this court, through Judge Eduardo De La Torre, denied a motion asking to lift an order of being unable to leave the country, filed by the legal representatives of former Director Jones and Rodin, the largest shareholder in the consortium, both defendants for the alleged generic crime against the public administration.

Both managers have precautionary measures against them, accused of the alleged bribery of officials, to approve a contract for more than $400 million dollars to build an industrial park and the Colon International Airport.

The investigations began on 17 January 2002, and after receiving the prosecutor's opinion at the time, the Supreme Court, through Resolution 17 of September 2003, declared the whole process null and void, and ordered the criminal record closed. Later, at the request of the Attorney General of the Nation, Ana Matilde Gómez Ruiloba, the full Supreme Court of Justice ordered the case to be reopened, through Resolution 24 of December 2009.

The full body of the Supreme Court appointed Judge Alejandro Moncada Luna as the prosecutor and he warned of the possible connection of Martin Torrijos to the case, who was a Deputy of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), so therefore the Supreme Court started an investigation against him. In August 2010 Moncada Luna asked the full body of the Supreme Court to declare him as impeded in the case, because a close relative exercised power in this process, and he was replaced by his deputy Abel Zamorano.

On 29 September 2001, Deputy Carlos Agustín Afú Decerega reported in the media that his colleague Mateo Castillero had given him six thousand U.S. dollars as an advance on the total sum of $20,000 in order to secure his vote to approve the Contract Law between the Nation and Consortium San Lorenzo, which would have created the Multimodal Industrial and Services Center (CEMIS) in the province of Colon.

In his prosecutor's opinion, Zamorano also recommends that Martin Torrijos should be called to trial and that Afu should be acquitted, and the money seized during the investigations should be donated to help social projects such as the Hogar San Jose de Malambo.

Linkage - In the prosecutor's opinion, the protected witnesses Gabriel and Uriel were categorical in stating that Martin Torrijos Espino coordinated with Manuel De La Hoz a trip to the province of Colon to withdraw the sum of $ 200,000 in cash to be taken to the National Assembly, to then be delivered to the PRD legislators (at the time) in exchange for the approval of CEMIS contract, money that came from the San Lorenzo Consortium and had been agreed with the director Joseph Martin Rodin.

The witness Gabriel indicates in November 2001, the lawmaker Balbina Herrera approached him worried about money claimed by the legislator Manuel De La Hoz, and, according to Balbina, had been given to Torrijos, so Gabriel invited her and Héctor Alemán with Torrijos, the latter being questioned about the fate of $900,000 that had been given by Martin Rodin.

Torrijos told them the money had been used during the Extraordinary Congress of the PRD, which, according to the witness, was not true.

The witness adds he asked Torrijos to talk to Rodin to ask him for an additional sum, because it was the only way to get the votes of legislators because they already knew that he had received a lot of money so therefore two days before 28 December 2001, Martin Torrijos called him (Gabriel) to rendezvous with Harry Castro, to give him a small box containing $200,000 dollars, which he in turn gave to the legislator Mateo Castillero, on direct orders of Torrijos Espino, being this money kept by him and the witness Uriel.

Uriel then states that after the distribution of the money to the PRD legislators, they returned $4,000 to Torrijos, which was left over after the deliveries.

To corroborate the movements of money, prosecutors conducted site inspections to verify the movement of money between October and December 2001 and January 2002 of the companies in the Consortium San Lorenzo, and confirmed the movement of large sums of money, and even Martin Rodin admitted having received the sum of $200,000 in cash in $20 bills on December 28, 2001.

The Public Ministry confirmed the movement of money in the amount of $554,094.79 against which several checks were drawn and of these $200,000 were not justified, and were destined for the National Assembly.

For his part, Francisco Cabrera, San Lorenzo Consortium employee, admitted he received the money in cash after having cashed the checks for Julio Rodriguez.

Starting with the statements made by Carlos Afu to the media, the case CEMIS has been one of the most talked about in public opinion, and many sectors of civil society have asked for a clarification of all of the alleged acts of corruption and to punish those involved. However, the process returns to take another course.

The investigations began on 17 January 2002, and after the delivery of the Prosecutor's opinion, the Supreme Court, by Resolution 17 of September 2003, declared the whole process null. The investigations were initiated for the alleged bribery of legislators from the PRD to approve the construction of CEMIS in the province of Colon, by the Consortium San Lorenzo. The strategy of the lawyers of Martin Torrijos is further delaying the process, and the proof is that they filed a total of eight motions in an attempt to keep him from being questioned. (Panama America)

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