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Monday, August 26 2019 @ 01:47 am EDT

Varela Blames Arias For Allegations Of Money Laundering

PoliticsNational Assembly Deputy Jose Luis Varela, the brother and spokesman for the presidential campaign of Juan Carlos Varela, the presidential candidate for the Panameñista political party, denied yesterday that the Panameñista Party received illegal funds, as published yesterday by the Miami based newspaper Diario Las Americas.

Varela claimed these allegations are an attack coming from the campaign the candidate for the Democratic Change political party, José Domingo Arias.

"This is an attack by Arias, and (what was published) is as fake as him. This is a product of their desperation, upon seeing the momentum held by the Varela campaign and upon seeing how we are rising in the polls," he said.

Varela demanded a "public apology" from Arias for the candidate's family, and for the family of Jaime Lasso, Panama's former Consul in South Korea, who according to the Diario Las Americas was involved in transactions that were allegedly received by the political campaign of the Panameñista candidate.

"Any financial transaction made by ​​Mr. Lasso is a transaction that was done legally done and he can explain it," said the candidate's brother, who warned that "information was provided, possibly by the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) of Panama, and that it has been leaked to the media in an illegal manner."

The UAF is an institution created during the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares (1994-1999) to combat money laundering and the financing of crime, and it is accountable to the President of the Republic.

According to the publication, the funds were transferred to Varela by Michelle Lasso, the daughter of the former Panamanian Consul in South Korea, who was investigated and sentenced to three years probation in the United States for money laundering, monies generated from illegal Internet gambling.

According to published accounts, one of the bank accounts investigated by the US Justice Department is account number 001100000231, established on January 7, 2009 at the Banco Nacional de Panama, on behalf of the Don James Foundation, owned by Jaime Lasso. And this account saw $1.5 million dollars paid to Varela, his family members, and his campaign, according to the Diario de las Americas .

According to investigation documents to which La Prensa had access, there is no mention of Juan Carlos Varela or Jaime Lasso in the case opened by the US Justice Department against Michello Lasso in April 2013.

Press sources that have been following the case in the U.S. found no evidence that Juan Carlos Varela was involved in the investigation.

In the criminal complaint there are 11 bank accounts based in Panama where Michelle Lasso sent $1.2 million between November 24, 2010 and June 28, 2012.

Of these accounts, four were opened in Banco Nacional, between May and June 2012.

None of the accounts opened in 2009 figure into the criminal complaint, as indicated by the Diario Las Americas.

"As I had indicated, Michelle's father is not on our radar screen and never has been," said Robert Sharpe, the prosecutor handling the case in the U.S., in an email sent to attorneys representing Michelle Lasso on 3 October 2013 and made public yesterday by the Varela campaign.

The Panameñista deputy said the defendant made ​​a mistake, but that the case is closed in the U.S. and he said "any transaction by Mr Jaime Lasso or the Don James Foundation is completely separate from the investigation." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The La Prensa newspaper and the Varela campaign is now in full-on spin control mode. There are two separate and distinct things going on here. The first is the fact that Michelle Lasso has been convicted as a money laundered, who will now be deported from the United States and returned to Panama. I suspect she might be arrested at the airport upon her return by the Panamanian authorities.

The second part of this unfolding story is the fact that the money generated by the illegal online gambling went to Juan Carlos Varela, his family members, and his campaign. And no - so far Varela or Michelle Lasso's father have not been named in the investigation being conducted by the US Justice Department into illegal online gambling and money laundering.

One thing to point out here. The case in the United States is not yet "closed" - and there might still be more arrests in the future.

According to the reports from the Diario Las Americas, the total amount of money is more like $30 million - according to the documents provided to them by the UAF.

Varela is right in saying that the documents provided by the UAF to the Diario Las Americas were probably leaked illegally, by Ricardo Martinelli himself or at the very least under his orders. And what's more - that conduct is completely in line with what Martinelli's administration has done in the past when they have intelligence information that will serve them to cause damage to a political adversary.

But the fact remains - that Varela received a whole lot of money - somewhere between the $1.2 million being reported by the US and the $30 million being reported by the UAF - and every dime of that money was obtained through illegal activity. That makes Varela - at the very least - the beneficiary of money laundering activities.

As I said yesterday, you have to pay close attention to the source of the information as this scandal unfolds. The La Prensa newspaper is 100% in the Varela and Panameñista camp. They will be using their newspaper as hard as they can to help Varela try to clean this mess up before the election.

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