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Tuesday, August 22 2017 @ 06:32 PM EDT

Corruption

Panama is a transit country for drug trafficking, especially cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Huge quantities of drugs generally pass through Panama going to markets in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The money from that trafficking activity comes back down through Panama to be laundered. The Panamanian National Police Direction of Intelligence and Information (DIIP) and Judicial Technical Police (PTJ) coordinate with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and other international police and anti-drug forces to discover and disrupt large, well-funded drug smuggling rings primarily based in Colombia and Mexico. Recently there was a world-record 20+ ton maritime cocaine bust that had a street value of almost half a billion dollars. Those one-kilo small square bricks you see on television are worth about $25,000 each on the street in Chicago. With all of that drug money flowing through Panama there are ample opportunities for corruption on the part of local government officials who generally are very poorly paid. In 2004 Panama's President Martin Torrijos was elected on a "zero corruption" campaign platform and in reality his administration has made significant efforts to combat government corruption. Anti-corruption efforts generate headlines and discussion, and in this section of Panama-Guide.com you will find a collection of those articles related to the various cases of corruption by people in positions of public trust in Panama. If you require additional information about this or any other category of information regarding the Republic of Panama please take advantage of our powerful in-house search engine. And if you still can't find what you're looking for we even take requests! Welcome aboard, and please remember to tell your friends about Panama-Guide.com, the #1 English Language Website about the Republic of Panama. Salud.
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Investigations Proceeding in Tax Collection Scandal

CorruptionMaria Alejandra Salerno, the legal representative of the company Cobranzas del Istmo SA and the former Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima will be interrogated in the coming days as part of the investigation being conducted by the Fourth Superior Prosecutor into allegations of irregularities in the collection of back taxes. (more)

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Audit Finds $10 Million In Damages To The State (Overflight Scandal)

CorruptionThe Comptroller estimates total damage to the State at approximately 10.1 million dollars caused by government contracts to rent small airplanes and helicopters between 2009 and 2014, which were paid through the National Assistance Program. (more)

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Panama gripped by millionaire ex-president's graft scandal

CorruptionBy JUAN JOSÉ RODRÍGUEZ Panama City (AFP) - When he ran for office, Panama's former president Ricardo Martinelli promised graft-weary voters he would never steal a cent: Why would he need to, since he was already a millionaire?, he asked.

Six years later, he is at the eye of a swirling scandal that has taken down several close allies, including two former ministers jailed for stealing public money.

The mounting accusations of massive corruption during his presidency (2009-2014) are now closing in on Martinelli, a white-haired supermarket magnate who is already under investigation for skimming money off the top of a school lunch contract.

"It's like a line of dominoes. They're knocking down the first ones to get to Martinelli," said political analyst Jaime Porcell.

Martinelli, 63, disappeared from the country in January.

His whereabouts are unknown, but he keeps up an active presence on Twitter, where he recently posted a picture of himself with a palm-tree-lined beach in the background, with the caption: "Watching a beautiful sunset with two of my sisters."

He also uses the platform to taunt his successor and former ally, President Juan Carlos Varela, whom he accuses of "politically persecuting" him.

Varela once served as Martinelli's vice president and foreign minister, but they had a nasty falling out in 2011, when Martinelli sacked Varela from his cabinet, saying he was more focused on preparing for the 2014 presidential election than on doing his job.

Varela hit back, accusing Martinelli of massive corruption.

He continued to hector his boss from the vice president's office, an elected post that Martinelli was powerless to force him from.

Today, Martinelli's tweets include smiling pictures of himself and Varela pre-rift that he has promised to post every week on "#ThrowbackThursday, when we remember the happy family we were."

It is all a far cry from 2009, when the pair teamed up to oust a center-left government and bring business-friendly policies back to Panama.

Varela, the scion of a rum dynasty, promised to back Martinelli for president if Martinelli would back him in 2014.

Martinelli won with vows to put an end to the corruption that has long dogged Panama, which has a reputation as a tax haven and ranks 94th out of 175 countries on watchdog group Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.

But now Martinelli is being investigated on suspicion of stealing money from a $45-million contract to buy food for schoolchildren as part of a National Action Plan (PAN) against poverty.

- Luxury cars, apartments, yacht -

Investigators also allege corruption on an airport parking lot program and a contract with a tax collection firm.

Varela says the total stolen during his predecessor's administration is nearly $100 million.

Prosecution documents seen by AFP say that money was used to buy luxury cars, apartments and a yacht.

As the graft charges have mounted, Martinelli's allies have been falling one by one.

His former economy minister, Frank De Lima, was arrested this week as part of a probe into allegations that up to $1.7 million was skimmed from PAN grain contracts.

Prosecutors say De Lima oversaw purchases of rice, lentils and beans at twice the actual price, carefully keeping the amounts below $300,000 to avoid congressional oversight.

Former social development minister Guillermo Ferrufino is serving jail time for stealing public funds, as are two former directors of PAN, Giacomo Tamburelli and Rafael Guardia.

Other top Martinelli allies are under investigation, including business executives, a former Supreme Court judge and his own brother.

"They are closing in on Martinelli. There will probably be more (scandals) because there was no oversight," political analyst Mario Rognoni told AFP, saying Martinelli's government pocketed "fist-fulls" of public money.

"Martinelli's future must be in prison, given all the known cases, the accusations and the evidence that is coming out," said Magaly Castillo, the director of the Citizens Alliance for Justice, a watchdog group.

But Martinelli, who is now a member of the Central American Parliament, maintains it is a smear campaign. He has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming rights violations. (AFP)

Editor's Comment: The fact of the matter is that Martinelli was responsible for stealing millions (if not billions) of dollars from the Panamanian people. He's now in hiding, and the people who were formally loyal to him will turn against him, from prison. Sooner or later Martinelli will be returned to Panama in handcuffs, a'la Noriega.

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Nine Former Officials Linked To Wiretapping Scandal

CorruptionAn audit by the Comptroller General of the Republic linked nine former officials of the government of President Ricardo Martinelli to alleged irregularities in the purchase of spy equipment from the company MLM Protection for $13.4 million. (more)

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The Investigation Into Former MEF Minister Frank De Lima

CorruptionThe investigation against the former Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima is complicated by the fragility of the testimony of Gladys Cedeño Urrutia, a former deputy minister of the MEF, who identified De Lima as the person who ordered contracts to be split into smaller sums, in order to avoid various control processes. (more)

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Supreme Court Combines Complaints Against Martinelli

CorruptionPanama's Supreme Court combined the seven complaints filed against former President Ricardo Martinelli for alleged crimes against the inviolability of secrecy and the right to privacy (wiretapping), which were filed in the office of Judge Harry Diaz. (more)

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Martinelli's Lawyers Demand Hearing

CorruptionLawyers representing the former President Ricardo Martinelli presented a new appeal before the Supreme Court yesterday, the same day the Court initiated an investigation against him for the purchase of dehydrated foods with a government contract worth $44 million through the National Assistance Program, in which there were cost overruns. (more)

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Supreme Court Opens Criminal Proceedings Against Former President Martinelli

CorruptionAfter having been formally notified yesterday about the decision by the Electoral Tribunal to lift the protection from criminal prosecution afforded to the former president Ricardo Martinelli, the team headed by Supreme Court Justice Oyden Ortega - who has been designated to act as the prosecutor for this process - began the task of analyzing the information contained in the case file which points to the former president for alleged anomalies in the government's purchase of dehydrated food through the National Assistance Program. (more)

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Panama Supreme Court Judge, Under Fire For Corruption, Threatens To Expose Other Justices

CorruptionMagistrate Judge Victor Benavides, under criminal investigation after his former security chief stated, in a video and sworn statement, that his ex-boss took bribe money to fix Supreme Court cases, and also engaged in pedophilia, has responded by threatening exposure of Panama’s widespread corruption.

Benavides telephoned all the other members of the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as several prominent members of the National Assembly, Panama’s parliament. He threatened to expose:

(1) Rampant corruption among the Supreme Court justices.

(2) The identities of judges and Assembly members who kept mistresses, and their names.

(3) The names of government officials who engaged in acts of sexual depravity and deviance.

(4) Those who received bribes and kickbacks in Panamanian government agencies, and the courts.

Whether Benavides’ threats will have an effect upon his possible criminal prosecution is not known, but Panamanians are said to be sick of the corrupt system that operates government and the courts in Panama, and they may demand that this information be aired. (By Kenneth Rijock - Curacao Chronicle)

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Criminal Case Against Martinelli Heads To The Supreme Court

CorruptionAs of today, the legal future of former President Ricardo Martinelli is is the hands of the Supreme Court, after the Electoral Tribunal posted an edict in the office of the General Secretariat of that entity to formally notify the former ruler of their decision to lift his criminal electoral immunity. (more)

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Judge Rejects Molinar's Legal Defense Ploy

CorruptionThe Fifteenth Criminal Court denied a request submitted by the former Minister of Education Lucy Molinar, accused of embezzlement in the case of alleged irregularities in the purchase of dehydrated food - for $ 44.9 million - through the National Assistance Program. (more)

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Electoral Tribunal Opens The Path To Prosecute Former President Ricardo Martinelli

CorruptionJust as Panama is the focus of regional attention for hosting the VII Summit of the Americas, the Electoral Tribunal has stripped the former President Ricardo Martinelli of any protection. (more)

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Gustavo Perez Transferred To The El Renacer Prison

CorruptionThe former Executive Secretary of the National Security Council Gustavo Perez was transferred to the El Renacer prison in Gamboa yesterday. (more)

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Panama to Investigate Entire Congress for Corruption

CorruptionPanamanian prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to launch a massive corruption probe against the 71 congressmen who served in the National Assembly between 2010 and 2014 for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from a welfare program, local daily La Estrella reported on Monday, March 30.

The congressmen reportedly purchased bags of food via the National Help Program (PAN) worth US$62.3 million. According to former PAN Director Rafael Guardia Jaén, they always made purchases from the same suppliers without a transparent decision-making process.

Prosecutors suspect the elected officials may have received bribes to prefer certain suppliers and award them contracts at inflated prices.

Between January to April, amid the campaign for the 2014 presidential election, congressmen reportedly bought 2,231,810 bags of food worth $25 each — a total of almost $56 million.

Guardia Jaén — who is now serving a prison sentence for corruption — said former President Ricardo Martinelli’s secretary, Adolfo de Obarrio, would instruct him when to make purchases and from whom to buy. “The congressmen suggested the suppliers,” said Jaén, “I was just following orders.”

So far, authorities have indicted 32 people involved in managing the welfare program, including Martinelli’s private secretary; the former president’s brother, Mario Martinelli; and former Education Minister Lucy Molinar.

Last week, in a separate investigation, anti-corruption Prosecutor Vika Broce asked judicial authorities to file a PAN-related case against two cabinet members during Martinelli’s administration.

Martinelli is currently on the run, and is set to lose his immunity from prosecution, over the PAN scandal. He was last seen in Italy, where he also faces extortion charges for a separate case. (Panampost.com)

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Anti Corruption Prosecutor Will Interrogate Former Comptroller Today

CorruptionThe First Anti Corruption prosecutor will interrogate the former Comptroller Gioconda Torres de Bianchini today, for possible embezzlement in the purchase of grains and legumes for the Ministry of Education through the National Aid Program, a contract endorsed by the entity which she directed. (more)

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Robbers break into Tamburrelli bakery

CorruptionPolice said that three men broke into il Nono bakery in Bella Vista Saturday. (more)

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Ferrufino Stole At Least 2.2 Million Dollars

CorruptionIt has been calculated the former Minister of Social Development (Mides) Guillermo Ferrufino received at least 2.2 million dollars in unjustified enrichment during the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. (more)

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Ex-Panama supreme court head jailed for 5 years on graft charges

Corruption(Reuters) - A former head of the Panamanian supreme court was sentenced to five years in prison on corruption charges on Thursday, the first time an active judge in the country has been sent to jail.

Alejandro Moncada was sentenced by a three-person committee made up by members of Congress after pleading guilty last month to charges of illicit enrichment as well as falsifying documents.

Under Panamanian law, supreme court judges can only be investigated by members of the national Congress.

Moncada, who had been due to sit in the court until 2020, was appointed by ex-President Ricardo Martinelli, a bitter rival of current President Juan Carlos Varela.

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Inmate Claims Vernon Ramos was Murdered and Buried (Financial Pacific Case)

CorruptionThe prison inmate who allegedly has information about the disappearance of Vernon Ramos, the Deputy Director of the Financial Analysis Unit of the Superintendency of Securities Market in Panama, was taken before the Public Ministry to file a sworn statement in the case. (more)

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Perez's Defense Threatens To Sue

CorruptionThe team of lawyers defending the former director of the Security Council warned yesterday that Gustavo Pérez will take legal action against the government officials who authorized the dissemination of images and videos showing him inside of the Gran Joya Penitentiary, where he is serving a preventive measure as part of the wiretapping case. (more)

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Government Provider and CD Party Member, With Luxurious House

CorruptionThe former Minister of Health Franklin Vergara has things in common with the businessman Carlos Bryan Torres, who during his tenure he was granted lucrative government contracts to deliver water by truck and garbage collection. (more)

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Moncada Luna Pleads Guilty - Will Serve Five Years In Prison

CorruptionAlejandro Moncada Luna, the Supreme Court magistrate who has been separated fro his position, took the easy way out. Yesterday he pleaded guilty to the crimes of unjust enrichment and deceit, and he agreed to serve a sentence of five years in prison, instead of going to trial before the National Assembly. (more)

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Supreme Court Postpones Request To Suspend Martinelli's Privileges

CorruptionThe judges of the Supreme Court of Justice agreed in an extraordinary session this Tuesday, February 10, to not send a request to lift the electoral immunity Ricardo Martinelli enjoys as the President of the Cambio Democratico political party to the Electoral Tribunal. (more)

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Rafael Guardia Returns To Testify Before Anti Corruption Prosecutors - Again

CorruptionThe former Director of the National Assistance Program Rafael Guardia arrived at the offices of the Anti Corruption Prosecutor at about 6:15 am this morning under a heavy guard, in order to make a statement in what would be the fifth case that has been opened against him in relation to the services his office provided to several institutions, including the Ministry of Health and SINAPROC, on helicopter rentals during his tenure. (more)

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Ronny Rodriguez Was Doing Intelligence Work For The Government

CorruptionJulio Moltó, the former Secretary of the National Security Council - from July 2010 to July 2012 - admitted receiving visits from representatives of the government of Israel and three experts of that nationality, who offered to sell a set of equipment used to intercept cellular telephone calls to the government of Panama, and during these visits he said they even conducted a demonstration of the capabilities of the equipment, by intercepting the communications of a group of officials working for the Security Council. (more)

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Martinelli - On The Run - "I Want To Return To Panama"

CorruptionThe former President Ricardo Martinelli feels homesick. On Monday, for the umpteenth time since January 28th when he left Panama, said he wants to return but the legal proceedings against him stand in the way. (more)

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Ruling Party Stole Money From The State in Panama

CorruptionThe ruling Democratic Change Party of former President Ricardo Martinelli funded its electoral campaign with money obtained illegally, denounced La Estrella de Panama daily today. (more)

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Special Deputy Prosecutor Takes Over Wiretapping Case in Panama

CorruptionThe newly appointed Deputy Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime, Ricardo Muñoz, took charge of the investigation for alleged crimes against the inviolability of secrecy and privacy, which was initiated by the Auxiliary Prosecutor. (more)

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Where's Ricky? Martinelli Spotted In Miami

CorruptionFormer Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was sighted again in Miami, in the United States. (more)

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Martinelli Enjoys No Immunity From The Central American Parliament

CorruptionFormer President Ricardo Martinelli, in his capacity as a Member of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), enjoys no immunity to prevent him from being criminally investigated in Panama. (more)

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