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Thursday, August 21 2014 @ 04:14 AM EDT

Punta Chame - Another Case Of Land Titles

Corruption Four months sufficed for Puntabeach Interprises, SA to obtain free title on a parcel of land measuring 9,381 square meters in Punta Chame on Panama's Pacific coast, by Anabelle Villamonte, the former director of the Land Titling of the National Authority of Land Management (Anati). In Punta Chame, Villamonte reproduced the mechanism of the rapid titling processes used in John Hombrón, where land ownership was proven only with testimonies (witness statements). But that is not the only coincidence.

In both cases it appears the lawyer Marcelino Ramos Madrid played an important role. Ramos Madrid inscribed on June 23, 2011 Puntabeach Interprises, SA, the company that benefited by the titling of the land in Punta Chame. This is the same person who replaced Villamonte as the Papadimitriu family lawyer in the case of the lands of John Hombrón, as soon as she was appointed to the Anati. Ramos Madrid was the Director and Treasurer at the time Puntabeach Interprises SA was inscribed. However, 13 days after free land title was granted, and just as this newspaper (La Prensa) began publication of the John Hombrón case, he enrolled in the Public Registry his resignation to the positions.

Process - On October 7, 2011, four months after the creation of Puntabeach Interprises SA, Villamonte signed the resolution that granted free title for the 9,381 square meters of land. The land was given a rateable (tax) value of about $ 56,000 dollars - a $6 per square meter. However, as denounced by the director of internet portal Panama Guide, Don Winner, the land is now for sale for $1.5 million dollars.

Winner said yesterday during his participation in the channel 2 TVN morning news program, that the area titled by Villamonte is actually a sandbar between the sea and the land acquired in 2004 by another person who was surprised to see a fence that eliminated their front on the ocean. He added that consequently, it is impossible for anyone to have proven their rights of possession. However, the resolution of award signed by Villamonte says three people testified that Puntabeach Interprises SA had acquired their rights as owners of the land for over five years. The resolution adds that the certification of this possession occurred in the Corregiduría of Chame.

Winner added that he toured the area, and the fence between the sand and the land stretched all along the beach, so that probably there are other areas where Villamonte granted land titles using the same procedure of alleged possession rights. "There may be others affected," he said. On the topic, the current administrator Anati, Franklin Oduber, said the institution is conducting an investigation into the case because of a complaint from residents of the area.

For his part, the lawyer Ramos Madrid told this newspaper he was limited to managing the award using the documents provided by his client, who he did not identify. "No one objected to this application during the process that I did ... with all the documentation received from my client, this is consistent with all the requirements established in Law 80 of 2009," he added. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: These guys are slick. The lawyer Ramos Madrid is basically saying "I don't know anything, I just used the documents my client gave to me." And when he says no one objected - that's also a slick move, and here's why.

Rights of Possession 101: Normally if you want to obtain or acquire Rights of Possession from someone who actually has them, you have to obtain statements from all of the neighbors who border the land. The reason for this is simple - it's based on common sense. In any part of any rural area of Panama the people who "really" live there know who owns what. They make agreements that stretch over generations. You'll hear things like "Tuti owns that valley from the top of that hill right there down to this stream. Juancito has the other side of the stream, down to the beach, and back as far as that big tree. My land runs around behind Mariela's, next to Juancitos on this side, and as far as the beach. Everyone in the whole town knows this." These people have (actually) been living on and farming this land for 70 years. They all know one another. And, if someone wants to buy (acquire) the Rights of Possession from Mariela or whatever, they will go down to the office of the local Corregidor (Justice of the Peace) and swear out a statement to document the land ownership.

But, People Lie (Gasp!): With a system based on witness statements to certify land ownership, how hard to you think it would be to simply find any dude strolling down the street, to pay him a sum of money (don't know how much) in order for him to walk into the local office of the Corregidor (Justice of the Peace) and swear on a stake of bibles that "Juan" has been living on that strip of sand for the past five years. In short, there's more than an excellent chance that the "witnesses" were simply paid to lie. When they put these deals together, everyone is looking to cover their respective asses with "plausible deniability" - starting with the office of the "Corregidor" - and all the way up to Anabelle Villamonte - the person who actually granted the title.

  • The Corregidor will say (and probably testify in court) "How was I supposed to know? There were three people in my office who swore out statements, saying what they were saying was true. How was I supposed to know they might have been lying?"

  • The lawyer just said "How was I supposed to know there was something fishy going on? I just used the documents provided to me by my clients."

  • Anabelle Villamonte - in the ANATI Resolution Number 329 which granted the title of the land - quoted the witness statements and the process that was supposedly documented in the office of the Corregidor in Chame as the legal basis for making the grant. She can say "how was I supposed to know? I didn't do anything wrong or illegal. I followed the law. If there was a problem with those documents, it's not my fault."

Plausible Deniability - All The Way Up: So, who do you think will be held legally accountable if there are any legal charges or criminal investigations made into this case? I suspect the first people who will be arrested or charged will be the four witnesses who supposedly made statements saying the Rights of Possession were valid. Everyone else will hide behind high paid lawyers in Panama City, run for cover, and protect whoever was "really" behind all of this. Because, in order to pull off something like this, you have to spread around a whole lot of bribe money. People will take a risk if there's the potential for a great reward. Just ask any drug trafficker who's in prison because they got caught. "Why did you do it?" The money was great...

I Didn't Know About The Ramos Madrid Connection: The journalist from La Prensa Ereida Prieto-Barreiro picked that one up. I didn't think of going back to look at changes in the leadership of the company Puntabeach Interprises S.A.. And, I also didn't follow the details of the John Hombrón case closely enough to have recognized that connection, even if I had seen the name. So, my appearing on the TVN morning news broadcast yesterday achieved the desired impact. Now land owners in Punta Chame have "woken up" to the facts of what has been done there. Let's see what else comes shaking out of the tree.

About The Statement That "No One Complained" - More slickness conducted there. When these guys created the parcels of land, they were very careful to not create any neighbors. They inserted a 5 meter wide access between the old, existing plots of land to the North. So therefore, their "new" land does not officially border the old, titled, land. So therefore, there's no need to obtain a witness statement from them. Slick, eh? That's why no one complained. And of course the lawyer Ramos Madrid knows this - that's why they did it that way. Literally NO ONE in Punta Chame knew these people had done this. They only broke their cover after President Ricardo Martinelli issued Executive Order 425, and they figured they had to hurry up and sell this land before anyone figured out what they had done. So they put up a fence, and that blew their cover. Not so slick afterall...

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Punta Chame - Another Case Of Land Titles | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Punta Chame - Another Case Of Land Titles
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, July 28 2012 @ 11:17 AM EDT

You should add the surveyor to your list. Even with an access road to the North he should have checked out the surrounding properties and used a known point (yeah I know, it's Panama)
In other countries they take the word professional to mean something.
Has a surveyor ever lost his job or credentials here?

Punta Chame - Another Case Of Land Titles
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 29 2012 @ 09:03 AM EDT

You should ask the public to tell of any instances where land scams like this occur or other land titling or land theft exists and start comparing all of those involved so that the plausible deniability is not an issue. If someone appears in only one transaction, then that's plausible deniability, but if they appear on many transactions involving fraud, would that be considered a conspiracy? (Or am I being too logical)