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Friday, August 29 2014 @ 08:15 AM EDT

The CEMIS Case Has Been Languishing In The Public Ministry For 29 Months

CorruptionThe investigation being conducted by the Public Ministry (MP) into the alleged payment of bribes in 2001 for the approval of the Multimodal Industrial and Services Center (CEMIS) project has been stalled for 29 months, because of a number of motions that have been filed with a variety of statutory bodies of the judiciary that have not yet been resolved.

Sources in the Public Ministry and the Judicial branch said an appeal presented by defense lawyers representing the former lawmaker Mateo Castillero is still pending in the Second Superior Tribunal.

Therefore, the Public Ministry has not been able to perform some of the steps associated with the investigation, which began in 2002 but a year later was closed, and it was then reopened again in December 2009, by order of the Supreme Court.

In 2009, investigations were divided between the Supreme Court, the National Assembly and the Public Ministry - based on the prosecutor's opinion prepared in January 2003 by the then Attorney General José Antonio Sossa, who asked for the charges against Castillero to be dismissed, and for the then lawmaker Carlos Afu to be called to trial, as well as the directors of the San Lorenzo Consortium (who was promoting the CEMIS project) Stephen Jones and Martin Rodin.

It falls to the Supreme Court to investigate Carlos Afu, who enjoys a level of protection from prosecution because he is an elected Deputy in the National Assembly.

It falls to the Public Ministry to investigate and prosecute those individuals who are now former lawmakers or private citizens.

The Public Ministry received its portion of the case file on 10 March 2010, when Giuseppe Bonissi had a month as the Attorney General. On that date, Bonissi said the investigation would take place regardless of the profile of those involved (today, did not return calls from this newspaper).

But a month later, in April 2010, there was the first and decisive setback. He asked the Electoral Tribunal (TE) to certify the electoral jurisdiction of 42 people who are allegedly involved in the case, but the Public Ministry has not received the requested information, due to the various legal appeals by the defense lawyers representing suspects.

In addition, on 21 September 2010 the Fourth Criminal Court was notified about the presentation of a motion for the prior and special pronouncement, requesting the termination of criminal proceedings. This motion was filed by Moravia Guerrero, the defense lawyer representing Martin Rodin.

When the Court asked the Attorney General for his opinion on the motion, Bonissi ordered the suspension of the investigation procedures, based on Article 2276 of the Judicial Code, which states: "the incident will be handled in a separate file, and it will suspend the processing of the case."

Eight months later, on 13 May 2011, the Fourth Criminal Court notified the Public Ministry again, this time to the new Attorney General Jose Ayu Prado, on the submission of a new motion, which called for the closure of the case. This action was filed by Victor Almengor, the defense lawyer representing Mateo Castillero.

In his response to the Fourth Criminal Court, Ayu Prado called for the rejection of the appeal, and it was not until 27 April 2012, when the judge Secundino Mendieta ruled on both actions in the same resolution and denied them both.

However, the Public Ministry is unable to continue with the investigation, because Castillero's technical defense appealed Mendieta's decision to the Second Superior Tribunal, and this appeal has not yet been decided.

Sources in the Public Ministry said they cannot give details about the internal contents of the process, and they merely reported their agency's officials go to the various offices of the judiciary every week to follow up on the status of the pending motions.

In The Supreme Court - Meanwhile, in June 2012 the Supreme Court judge Abel Zamorano, who has been appointed as the prosecutor for this investigation, issued his prosecutor's opinion. He called for the dismissal of all charges against Carlos Afu. In the same opinion he also called for there to be a trial against the former president Martin Torrijos, and he asked the Supreme Court to prevent Torrijos from leaving the county.

The request has not been resolved by the full Court, because Torrijos gave up his seat as a Member of the Central American Parliament, a few days after the prosecutor's opinion was issued. If his resignation is accepted his case would have to go to the Public Ministry, because he would lost his electoral immunity, and the Supreme Court would no longer be the competent authority to hear the case against him.

The Case Was Closed In The Assembly - The only phase of the CEMIS case that has been closed is the part that was sent to the National Assembly regarding the complaint filed by the former PRD legislator Balbina Herrera over the alleged payment of bribes to lawmakers, in order to obtain their support for the ratification of the Supreme Court judges Winston Spadafora and Alberto Cigarruista in 2002. In May 2010, a week after receiving the dossier, the Credentials Committee ordered it to be closed for a "lack of evidence." (Prensa)

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