Money Diverted From Consulates Financed Varela's Campaign
Thursday, April 17 2014 @ 10:13 am EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
But the Foundation was also be part of a financial structure allowing presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela to divert funds from two of the consulates he controlled as Chancellor: South Korea and Kobe, Japan.
Michelle Lasso, who was convicted together with Gurian - a subject linked to members of the "Cosa Nostra" (mafia), was one of the two main signatories of the account.
The money from the illegal online gambling activity in the United States was mixed in Panama with the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation, from which Varela received funds from the former Consuls Jaime Lasso in South Korea and Albero Aristides Arosemena in Kobe, according to an investigation by the Miami based Diario Las Americas newspaper.
Bank records left traces indicating a great part of the deposits and transfers went to Varela.
Jaime Lasso, the father of Michelle Lasso and the President of the Don James Foundation, was the Consul in South Korea when direct deposits made to one of the Foundation's accounts in the Banco Panama for more than 399,943 dollars.
When he was removed from the position as Consul in October 2011, Lasso moved another $249,981 from Korea to the bank account of the Don James Foundation in Panama.
Arosemena did similar things while he was the Consul in Kobe, Japan.
Arosemena deposited more than $150,000 in one account in just six months, according to documents published by the Diario Las Americas newspaper as part of their investigation.
It was also learned Michelle Lasso had at least two bank accounts open at this same period of time, were there were deposits of 2.6 million dollars.
Add to these bank accounts opened by other relatives of Jaime Lasso where there were deposits of $1.9 million and another for $1.3 million.
Jaime Lasso also opened a personal account with 312,000 dollars.
Most of the bank accounts opened by these members of the Lasso family were in the Banco Panama, where Jaime Lasso is a shareholder.
Recently, Michelle Lasso was convicted of the crime of money laundering in the United States, after an investigation that covered exactly the years when the foundation received money from the consulates controlled by Varela.
According to the investigation conducted by the Diario Las Americas newspaper, the Don James Foundation and the Lasso family moved about $27 million into the local Panamanian banking system between 2009 and 2011.
Varela admitted having received money from the Don James Foundation for his presidential campaign, but he did not admit receiving money illegally diverted from the consulates, and instead he said he received those funds as a campaign donation and for investments his family made with Lasso.
How much money did Vice President Varela receive?
The bank records contained in the investigation can only reveal part of this information.
According to the documents, the Vice President and presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela and his family received $423,000 directly from one of the three bank accounts of the Don James Foundation.
Through his first checking account at Banco Panama, in July 2009 the Don James Foundation ordered two cashier's checks for Gladimar and T-Shirt Interamerican for $45,000.
These payments might be related to Varela's campaign expenses, who at the time was preparing for the primary elections in the Panameñista political party.
In the records it appears these two checks were received by Elias Guzman, Varela's driver.
On January 23, 2010, Jaime Lasso, through the bank account of the Don James Foundation, ordered the payment of $70,000 to Juan Carlos Varela using a cashiers check drawn on the Banco Panama.
Lasso said he owed the money to pay for 50 pure Brahman cattle for his farm.
There is no public knowledge of any cattle business owned by Vice President Varela.
Juan Carlos Varela's brothers also received payments or transfers from the Don James Foundation.
On March 25, 2009 Luis J. Varela received $ 50,000 and on May 16, 2011 he received another $70,000 according to the reports used by the Diario Las Americas.
The National Assembly Deputy Jose Luis Varela received payments through his companies.
For example, Riofra, led by José Luis Varela, received $ 20,000 in two deposits on July 19, 2011 and another on September 5, 2012.
The company Luis J. Varela y Hijos S.A. was also part of the structure used by the presidential candidate Varela to receive monies from the Don James Foundation and the consulates in South Korea and Kobe, Japan.
The bank reports in Panama recorded that on September 7, 2012 this company - which is directly linked to the Varela family - received $20,000 from the foundation.
The contradictions of Lorena
Meanwhile, Lorena Castillo, the wife of presidential candidate for the Panameñista party, defended her husband and tried to distance him from the reports published by the Diario Las Americas.
Castillo first said the (copies of the) checks published by the Diario Las Americas newspaper were "false," but she later admitted then would be analyzed.
In statements given to RPC Radio, Castillo said "It has been a very hard week of accusations, every check you see is absolutely false."
However, minutes later she contradicted herself when she said "the checks were delivered for analysis."
After Juan Carlos Varela discredited the Miami-based newspaper, the editorial board lamented that instead of offering an explanation and details about his relationship with the facts under investigation, the candidate "has yet to give a convincing explanation to the Panamanian people."
Martinelli : benefit of the doubt
Meanwhile, President Ricardo Martinelli said "unlike others, I give the benefit of the doubt to the presidential candidate, Vice President Juan Carlos Varela , unlike what they did with me. There are the checks and substantial evidence, and these are very serious accusations, but there due process must be followed, something they did not due for me, because they accused and convicted me," said the chief executive.
The spokesman for Democratic Change (CD) party Luis Eduardo Camacho accused the Vice President and presidential candidate of the Panameñista party Juan Carlos Varela of having a "double standard."
"Varela has a double standard, because now he says the journalist who published the scandal in the Diario Las Americas is 'a paid mercenary,' while he applauded the publications in the newspaper indicating President Ricardo Martinelli was supposedly involved in the Lavitola scandal," he said. (Critica)
Editor's Comment: They are going to keep using this to kick Varela in the nuts as hard as they can, and as many times as they can - from now until the election which is just a few days more than two weeks away. Isn't it nice of Martinelli to give Varela the benefit of the doubt, while at the same time calling for "due process." In the world of political double-speak, what he was really saying is "you can bet your ass there's going to be an official investigation into the use of illegal funds and money laundering."
Politicians - more fun than a room full of monkeys with open jars of peanut butter...