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Friday, August 23 2019 @ 10:12 pm EDT

Former US BizJet Executives Convicted For Paying Bribes in Panama

CorruptionTwo of the four executives of the company Bizjet International Sales and Support Inc., formerly responsible for the maintenance of the presidential aircraft of Panama, were sentenced to eight months of home arrest, with the possibility of probation, after pleading guilty to paying bribes to government officials in Panama.

A report from the US Department of Justice revealed their original sentences of 108 and 120 months in prison were modified, because last year BizJet admitted to having paid bribes to government officials in Mexico, Brazil, and Panama.

In addition, to resolve the charges for their "corrupt behavior" the company paid fine of 11.8 million dollars.

This is the second U.S. conviction related to corruption in Panama. The first was against a director of Ports Engineering & Consultants Corp. (PECC).

Bizjet International identified an officer of the Civil Aviation Authority (AAC) who they described as the "Chief Mechanic" as the person who received the bribes from the company in order to obtain the contracts to perform maintenance on the Gulfstream II aircraft, which has since been sold by the current administration.

The report reveals that this "Chief Mechanic" - who was not identified by name, but rather as "Official Number 6" - received $10,000 dollars and a cellular telephone in 2006 for his "decisive role" to ensure that BizJet was awarded the contract in Panama.

This office+r was considered to be someone who had "broad influence" in the making of decisions, the report said.

La Prensa attempted to obtain information about the investigation that the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime should have started in February 2012, after the Attorney General at the time, José Ayú Prado, was forwarded a report about this crime that occurred in Panama.

However, as of press time we still have not received a response.

Consulted by telephone, the current Director of the AAC, Rafael Bárcenas, was asked if he had filed a complaint about the investigations, in order to identify the so called "Officer Number 6" or to see if he had taken action in the organization to identify the officer, and in response he said he was not going to make a statement.

A source said the officer who received the bribes from BizJet has remained in his post at the ACC and he has never been called for an investigation.

The company, according to reports from the AAC, was paid more than $ 2.8 million between 2004 and 2009. According to official records, the highest payment was $ 995, 862 in 2008.

For now, the U.S. authorities have the former Vice Presidents of Sales and Finance of BizJet in prison, while the former President and a former Executive Director of the company, who are accused of "conspiring" to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and "money laundering" remain at large and are wanted by the authorities.

"It is believed the former directors are out of the country (outside of the United States)," says the report.

"The charges announced allege a conspiracy by senior executives of Bizjet to win contracts in Latin America, through bribes and illegal tactics," said the Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the report.

New articles published in Mexico revealed the existence of accounting reports, invoices, checks and the existence of another company based in Mexico that would have been used to "justify the cash flow, not only in this country but to Panama."

PECC: FIRST CASE OF BRIBERY IN PANAMA

In another case, U.S. authorities sentenced Charles Jumet and John Warwich, managers of Ports Engineering & Consultants Corp. (PECC), for "corrupt practices" in Panama.

The case, under Supreme Court Justice Alejandro Moncada, still remains without action in the Third Division of the Supreme Court of Panama,

Warwich and Jumet pleaded guilty of having "paid bribes" to Panamanian officers for the concession of service of lighthouses and buoys to the Port Authority in 1997.

Jumet was sentenced to 87 months in prison and fined $ 15,000, while Warwich, to five years and ordered to pay $ 250,000 for violating the FCPA in the country.

In 2004 and 2006, U.S. authorities responded judicial assistance requested by the Comptroller General of the time, but the case remained shelved during the administration of Martin Torrijos. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The bribes in the PECC case were paid in 1997 during the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares of the PRD. So of course when the United States provided the details about the case to the government of Panama in 2004 and 2006 when the PRD's Martin Torrijos was in charge, the didn't do anything to investigate those charges. Now in this case BizJet paid their bribes apparently in 2006 - also during the administration of Martin Torrijos. The bottom line is that when these cases are exposed outside of Panama the local government here does nothing. All of the politicians are corrupt, and they just take turns feeding...

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