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Sunday, April 20 2014 @ 02:25 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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Transactions By Varela Appointed Diplomats Exceed Their Salaries

CorruptionAnother angle investigators are exploring are the transfers made by Michelle Lasso using funds from illegal gambling activities, from accounts in Caribbean tax havens. (more)

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Money Diverted From Consulates Financed Varela's Campaign

CorruptionThe Don James Foundation, possibly related to the money laundering case of money derived from a network of illegal online gambling led by Phillip Gurian in the U.S., managed almost 14 million dollars in three bank accounts, two of then in the Banco Panama. (more)

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Financial Analysis Unit Official Could Go To Prison If They Disclosed Official Information

CorruptionOfficials of the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) are required by law to safeguard the information they learn or obtain in the performance of their duties, and whoever does not comply with this requirement could be sentenced to between three to five years in prison, according to the Penal Code. (more)

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Judge spares Panama woman prison in gambling case

CorruptionBy Robert Gavin - A Panamanian woman who laundered $8 million for an international gambling ring that included two Albany County jail officers will not go to federal prison.

Michele Lasso, 30, was sentenced Tuesday to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine in U.S. District Court, where the judge blasted her claims of naivete.

"This gambling conspiracy could not happen without you," Judge Mae D'Agostino told Lasso, as Lasso wept while sitting between her attorneys. "I think you need to look in the mirror."

Her husband, Alejandro Lopez, watched from a courtroom bench, his hand pressed on a Bible.

Lasso, who holds a master's degree in financial markets, pleaded guilty Oct. 31 to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Lasso must forfeit $8 million and will be banned from the United States.

Lasso held a visa and was living in Parkland, Fla., before she was charged on April 10 in what is now the largest gambling bust in the history of Albany County. Lasso has spent most of the last year in home detention while raising an infant son born four days after her arrest. "I'm just very sorry," Lasso told the judge, crying.

Lasso controlled bank accounts, credit cards and wire transfers for a global sports betting ring operated by Philip Gurian, 52, of Boca Raton, Fla., who pleaded guilty to money laundering on Oct. 9. Gurian — whose criminal history includes a 2004 federal stock scam conviction with a captain in the New Jersey-based DeCavalcante crime family — will be sentenced by D'Agostino on April 15.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Sharpe, who prosecuted the case, asked that Gurian be sentenced to between eight and 14 months in prison. Sharpe had recommended probation for Lasso.

Lasso — also known as Michele Marie Lasso-Barraza — transferred gambling proceeds to Panama, Andorra and the Cayman Islands, and set up two sham entities known as Nigel Holdings Inc. and Nigel Holdings S.A.

Wiretaps caught Lasso talking with Gurian via Skype. In one conversation, Lasso said she tried to move $4 million from a gambling website to a Panamanian bank.

Lasso's attorney, William N. Shepherd, who once was the statewide prosecutor for Florida, told the judge his client is deeply changed from the woman caught on the wiretaps.

"At the time of the offense, Ms. Lasso lacked the good sense and appreciation of the U.S. legal system to consider the impact of this conduct, but now she reflects on the conduct with devastation, humiliation and regret," Shepherd wrote.

Lasso could have faced 12 to 18 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

D'Agostino told Lasso she seriously considered imposing a prison sentence. The judge scoffed at Lasso's contention that she didn't appreciate the gravity of her crimes and that she came from a country where gambling is legal. "You speak almost as one who was naive and really didn't know what was going on," D'Agostino said. "I've read the wiretaps. I've had the benefit of listening to you when you did not know that law enforcement was listening in. So for you to leave this courtroom today and try to tell anybody that you didn't understand what was going on, in my view, is simply beyond belief."

At the conclusion of her sentencing, Lasso was placed in the custody of federal immigration agents.

Gurian — known as "Florida Phil" — ran between 40 and 50 offshore websites. Bettors received passwords and log-in codes for gambling websites that took a 10 percent fee on all bets. Gurian once boasted that he was earning as much as $150,000 daily.

Gurian laundered at least $8 million in proceeds through Lasso using Nigel Holdings Inc. and Nigel Holdings S.A. He had bookies working for him in New York, Boston, New Hampshire, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Texas, California and Las Vegas, as well as the United Kingdom, Jamaica, Russia, Holland, Mexico and Panama.

On April 10, authorities busted the ring, including Albany County jail officers Timothy Robillard and James Cerniglia, both of Clifton Park; longtime Latham bookie Joseph "Oink" Carucci and Christopher Socola and Craig Hayner of Clifton Park. All have pleaded guilty. (timesunion.com)

Editor's Comment: This morning the journalist Sergio Otálora of the Diario Las Americas who wrote the articles linking the presidential candidate for the Panameñista political party Juan Carlos Varela to money laundering, involving these illegal proceeds from online gambling, said he had bank records as well as copies of cancelled checks written directly to Varela. During the interview on Telemetro, he was flipping through pages and pages of additional information. He said Michelle Lasso's father, Jaime Lasso del Castillo - who Varela appointed as Panama's Consul to South Korea when he was serving as Panama's Foreign Minister - now turns out to be Varela's cousin. The total amount of money deposited into the 26 Panamanian bank accounts was "more than 30 million dollars" according to Sergio Otálora.

The journalist from the Diario Las Americas refused to answer direct questions regarding his contacts with Panama's Financial Analysis Unit - although it's now fairly obvious that as soon as the political operatives working for Ricardo Martinelli heard about the money laundering case against Michelle Lasso, the scrambled to investigate all of the associated accounts. Imagine the hard-on they got when they discovered that much of the laundered money was going directly to Juan Carlos Varela. In typical Martinelli fashion, they simply decided they would get the most "bang for the buck" by giving the information to Sergio Otálora of the newspaper Diario Las Americas in Miami. It also came out during the Telemetro interview this morning that the newspaper is owned by Venezuelan businessmen who are in political opposition to Venezuela's president Maduro.

Alvaro Alvarado tried hard to put the blame on the messenger, however it's perfectly clear that Varela received literally millions of dollars of illegal funds - which makes him a money launderer. His cousin's daughter funneled the money to him, which he is now spending to pay for political ads. Sooner or later there will be an investigation in Panama, where nothing will happen. Above a certain level there's a sort of "glass ceiling" where all politicians become untouchable. However, it would be a trip if the US Justice Department should issue a warrant for Varela's arrest, as being the kingpin behind this money laundering operation. That hasn't happened yet, but it might...

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Panamanian Presidential Candidate Involved In Money Laundering

CorruptionBy Sergio Otalora - Several bank accounts in Panama received funds from money laundering, from transactions related to illegal online gambling operations, and these funds have been used to finance the political campaign of presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela, according to information obtained by the Diario Las Americas. (more)

Editor's Comment: (This is a translation of the Spanish language article published this morning by the Miami newspaper Diario Las Americas, with my comments.)

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Martinelli promises not to take refuge in the Central American Parliament

CorruptionThe prestigious Italian prosecutor Paolo Ielo of Rome named Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli in the document containing his request to prosecute Valter Lavitola for international corruption. (more)

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Italian Justice Planning To Investigate Martinelli - Who Says He's "Pissing Myself Laughing"

CorruptionPresident Ricardo Martinelli will face Italian justice, according to judicial sources. (more)

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Former (PRD) Minister of Agricultural Development Convicted And Sentenced To Prison

CorruptionThe Fifth Circuit Criminal Court convicted the former Minister of Agricultural Development Alejandro Posse Martinz of the crime of "theft with breach of trust" and issued a sentence of 20 months imprisonment against him. (more)

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Navarro Was The "Most Corrupt in Panama" According To US Report

CorruptionIn relation to a banking transaction between the Municipality of Panama and Banistmo Inc. for $25 million for the purchase of the Hatillo building and other ghost investments, the US Embassy in Panama already had several reports about Juan Carlos Navarro, who at the time was the Mayor of Panama City Juan Carlos Navarro, who today is the PRD's presidential candidate. (more)

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PRD's Navarro Demands Appointment Of Special Prosecutor In Finmeccanica Case

CorruptionThe presidential candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Juan Carlos Navarro, is demanding that Panama's Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to reopen the investigation into the alleged corruption case involving the president, Ricardo Martinelli, and the Italian company Finmeccanica. (more)

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Lavitola Case (Bribery of Panamaninan Government Officials) To Resume in Italy Tomorrow

CorruptionThe preliminary hearing in Italy on the alleged bribery of Panamanian authorities by the former director of the Italian newspaper "Avanti" Valter Lavitola and others is scheduled to resume tomorrow.

The process involves the investigation of alleged bribes paid by the former director of Finmeccanica, Paolo Pozzessere, and the former collaborator of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Valter Lavitola, to Panamanian government officials in return for obtaining government contracts.

The case, which has splashed onto the President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli, who rejects these versions of the events, appears in the investigations for international corruption and blackmail that the Prosecutor of Naples is running against Lavitola.

The investigators are trying to clarify the agreements signed between Italy and Panama in August 2010 to buy equipment from the Italian companies Selex, Telespazio, and Augusta - companies controlled by Finmeccanica.

The investigation also attempts to clarify if Lavitola was able to pay bribes to the Panamanian officials in order to obtain the government contract worth 176 million euros (245 million dollars) in order to carry out projects that were never performed.

The preliminary hearing of the trial began on March 4, in which the prosecutor Paolo Ielo accused Pozzesere and Lavitola of the offenses of corruption, the illegal diversion of funds abroad, and bribery.

After listening to the defense counsel representing the accused, the judge in the preliminary hearing, Maria Bonaventura, decided to postpone the case and to hold a new hearing tomorrow, on 18 March.

Last Wednesday, Lativola, who is in prison for having blackmailed the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, testified in another case in which he is involved.

That case has to do with an investigation into the alleged payment of three million euros (4.1 million dollars) to Senator Sergio De Gregorio in 2007, to precipitate the fall of the administration of Romano Prodi, who at the time was the rival of Silvio Berlusconi, who is also being investigated in the case.

During his testimony, Lavitola said he would collaborate with the Italian justice system if his collaboration would gain him an early release.

"De Gregorio has encouraged me to do as he did: "to make a pact and to put Berlusconi into trouble! That way he will get out of all of the processes," confessed Lavitola during the hearing last Wednesday at Naples (in Southern Italy).

He added "I intend to work with the Prosecutor of Naples. I will say anything that may lead to my release."

Valter Lavitola has been in prison for the past two years, after he was arrested at Rome's Fiumicino airport on April 16, 2012 upon his return from Buenos Aires, where he stayed as a refugee from his problems with the Italian judiciary.

Specifically, he was accused of blackmailing Berlusconi in relation to his parties with women, a case for which he has been sentenced to 2 years and 8 months in prison.

According to the investigation, the former journalist acted as an intermediary between Berlusconi and the businessman Giampaolo Tarantini, who was presumably responsible for getting the girls who attended the parties thrown by the former prime minister.

According to the prosecutors, Lavitola convinced Tarantini to lie to the judges about the supposed parties held by Berlusconi, with a payment of 500,000 euros. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Yeah, a Panamanian president with an Italian heritage. A loud mouthed Italian prime minister, and Lavitola as the go-between. In fact, the bribes that were going to be paid to the Panamanian authorities never fully materialized. The whole thing blew up in Italy (the case over Lavitola blackmailing Berlusconi) right at the time the Finmeccanica deal in Panama was about to become final. The primary person in Panama who put all of that together was the former Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela - and that's why Martinelli fired him and broke off the alliance between the CD and the Panameñistas. I call this whole thing "corruptus interruptus" - because they pulled out before the bribe money was actually paid. With a straight face the Panamanians simply "adjusted" the contract (to remove the money that was going to be paid as kickbacks) after the Lavitola-Berlusconi case blew up and became international news. And now Lavitola is willing to say anything so long as it gets him out of prison. What a nice mess we've going going on here. Corruption in Italy and Panama? I'm shocked!

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Arias Dodges Questions About Electoral Tribunal Data Complaint

CorruptionThe presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Change (CD) political party, José Domingo Arias, avoided taking a definite position on the complaint that will be filed by the Electoral Tribunal before the Public Ministry, because they think his campaign used privileged information improperly.

"I understand that the Electoral Tribunal filed a complaint before the Attorney General which is in the hands of the party's legal team, which will give it due course," he said.

Erasmo Pinilla, the presiding judge of the Electoral Tribunal, said the situation is serious that this is the first time "information contained in the institution's database has been used for purposes that have nothing to do with the interests of the country."

CD members only need a cedula number in order to obtain political, social, work, and personal information on any citizen, their children, siblings, parents, and acquaintances.

Magaly Castillo, a lawyer and an active member of civil society, said "there are serious situations that violate the law and tarnished the electoral process."

Meanwhile, Ricardo Martinelli, the President of the Republic, wrote last night on his Twitter account: "free propaganda from judge Pinilla, the opponents and their media increases enrollment in our data acquisition system, thank you." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: I'm not sure that the CD actually did anything wrong here. They have amassed data on Panamanian citizens, mostly from public sources. The questionable part is - how did the data jump over the fence from being in the hands of the Electoral Tribunal, to being in the hands of the Cambio Democratico political party. I think this is mostly a privacy issue, but I think much of the details in the CD's "data acquisition system" comes from simply exploiting existing security weaknesses regarding how personal or private information is stored and held by government agencies. It seems like they started off with a bunch of basic information, then used programs to tie things together, form links among family members and acquaintances, identify political affiliations, etc. They are obviously driven by a desire to know "who's who" for the election process. This will most likely be used to target voters and to get the vote out. And of course on the opposite side of the equation, they know who their enemies are. Martinelli is a control freak, who understands that money is made using intelligence information. This is an intelligence operation, pure and simple.

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APEDE Directors On PRD Payroll During Torrijos Administration

CorruptionFive members of the current Board of Directors of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives (APEDE), were employed or benefited from direct government contracts issued during the last government of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) led by former president Martín Torrijos Espino between 2004 and 2009, reveals a report.

The document, to which the Panama America newspaper had access, details the amounts received and the services offered by these businessmen, who today are adversaries of, and who criticize the actions of the current president Ricardo Martinelli and his colleagues.

In other words, the group of businessmen who today are organizing a forum featuring the presidential candidates from the opposition political parties as the only participants, received lucrative salaries from a special fund under the United Nations Program for Development.

For example, David Saied Torrijos, a longtime PRD activist and current member of the APEDE, received fees of $198,250 in just three years.

This salary was earned by serving as the Director of the Technical Unit for Public Policy, of the Ministry of Economy and Finance between October 16, 2004 and December 31, 2007.

Meanwhile, Aramburú Porras and Associates, the consulting firm owned by Fernando Aramburú Porras, who is the current chairman of the APEDE, billed $93,975 for two consulting contracts for real estate and public offices.

Both economic agreements occurred between December 2005 and December 2006. The contract between the company of Aramburú Porras and the government of Panama, worth $44,100 lasted only seven months.

In other words, this man who is now questioning the contracts issued by the government of Ricardo Martinelli, was paid $6,300 for each of the seven months of the contract, which did not go through any sort of competition or bidding process, an official report reveals.

Other members of the APEDE also appear on the list, such as Carlos Ernesto González Ramírez and Aristides Hernández, who had contracts for two and three months for $20,000 and $17,000 respectively.

Besides these, Luisa Turolla was hired by the Secretariat of "Compita" Program of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI) receiving $14,000 per month.

According to Irvin Halman, the former President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Panama, this practice is dangerous because there are people who say one thing, but in practice they do something else.

"As an entrepreneur and a citizen one must be consistent in their actions and attitudes," he said. Halman added that the fact of signing a contract with the State is not sinful as long as there is no conflict of interest.

According to the businessman Gaspar García de Paredes, who has links to the business associations of the country, they should criticize when anomalies occur in contracts."They should criticize when due process is not met in a bidding process or contest, or if in one way or the other a business or a natural person makes a contract with the state."

Finally, Garcia de Paredes said this type of activity must have the necessary transparency. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Once again, this article appeared in the Panama America newspaper, which is basically owned and operated by the government of Ricardo Martinelli. It's not journalism but rather political propaganda. And of course, the facts contained in the article are true and accurate. The current leadership of the APEDE is solidly in the PRD camp - because they got paid a lot of money by the PRD when they were in power. Those same "business leaders" are currently launching criticism against the administration of the CD and Ricardo Martinelli - mostly because he's not giving them contracts. If they were to "switch sides" then of course they would be getting paid again, and then they would shut the hell up. But that's not likely to happen, so what we are left with is this public bickering over which administration is the most corrupt. It's not news - all Panamanian politicians are corrupt. The level of corruption has basically been the same during the administrations of Mireya Moscoso (1999 - 2004), Martin Torrijos (2004 - 2009), and now Ricardo Martinelli (2009 -2014). So that means corruption is nothing more than a common denominator - so it should just be accepted as standard practice and ignored when trying to decide who to put in office. Martinelli is no better, or no worse, than any of his predecessors in this regard. Well, they've let more contracts, so he's been able to steal more. That just means he's better at it...

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Valter Lavítola Going To Trial For International Corruption

CorruptionValter Lavítola, the key link between the government of Panama and Finmeccanica, and Paolo Pozzessere, the former commercial director of massive Italian aerospace and defense company, will face trial as the accused in court number 10 of the court of Rome on 4 March 2014.

The prestigious prosecutor Paolo Ielo accuses them of international corruption for having attempted to divert up to 18 million dollars in bribes, "an amount that the recipients - the President of the Republic of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, and other government political figures who he said he would identify - covertly, and in any case hidden", according to the conclusion of the final investigation.

This is the preliminary hearing at which the parties involved will set their positions, and at which the prosecutor will make public the requested sentence for those accused of the supposed crimes of corruption in Panama.

After the hearing, the judge will resolve all the issues raised and, if necessary, set the date for the next hearing or, ultimately, the judge may determine that the prosecutors should continue to investigate the crime and bring more evidence.

According to confidential documents to which La Prensa has had access, Valter Lavítola was the center of the political-administrative relations in the Italy, Finmeccanica, Panama triangle, and he created the company Agafea Corp., SA "in the ultimate and effective interest of Ricardo Martinelli," adds the document.

Rome prosecutors determined in the summary that the President of Panama was "the hidden economic beneficiary and final recipient " of the bribes that would have been paid by the Italian companies Telespazio, Agusta Westland and Selex - the companies of Finmecannica - to Agafia Corp, S.A., for counseling and consulting.

However, Martinelli appears as a "passive part to the corruption" and he is "not punishable" because he is a foreigner, because of his diplomatic immunity, and because the crimes being investigated were not committed in Italy.

The offenses date back to 2010, when the Government of Panama signed, as part of a security agreement with Italy, a contract worth about $250 million Finmeccanica to supply six helicopters, 19 radar sets, and digital mapping services.

In another case, in the coming days prosecutors in Naples will set the date for the trial for the alleged corruption involving the failed construction of modular prisons in Panama by the Italian company Svemark, as well as in the Impregilo case in which Lavitola also appears as the accused and in which Martinelli appears as the subject of the so called "passive corruption" but he is "not punishable."

Finmeccanica, the Italian company in which the Italian government holds a 30% interest, has several ongoing legal cases.

The Court of Busto Arsizio, in northern Italy, is trying Giuseppe Orsi, the former Chairman of Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, the former administrator of Agusta Westland, of international corruption, because they would have paid bribes of up to $69 million to senior Government officials in India to obtain a contract to sell 12 helicopters for $759 million, also in 2010.

The latest corruption scandal involving Finmeccanica takes us to the capital of Nigeria, Lagos.

Naples prosecutors opened an investigation into the alleged payment of bribes to government officials, precisely based on evidence brought to light by several numbered accounts in Switzerland belonging to Paolo Pozzessere. (La Prensa)

Editor's Comment: La Prensa won't be saying any time soon that the real key player in this entire scandal was Juan Carlos Varela, the presidential candidate for the Panameñista party. This newspaper La Prensa is trying to get him elected, so they are focusing completely on Ricardo Martinelli. They fail to mention that Martinelli fired Varela, precisely because it was Varela who set this whole Finmeccanica thing up, and who brought all of these problems into their camp. This scandal is the real reason why the alliance between the CD and the Panameñistas fell apart on 30 August 2011.

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Panama Needs to Clean Up Its Act

Corruption(A Bloomberg Editorial) With the world’s second-largest free-trade zone, Latin America’s fourth-busiest airport, four container-vessel seaports, the Pan-American Highway and numerous free-trade agreements, Panama is on its way to becoming the Singapore of the Americas.

And as Eric Sabo reports in the March issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine, the expansion of the Panama Canal now under way “is only part of the massive infrastructure spending that is propelling the Panamanian economy.”

Yet to reap the full benefits of such investment, and to address one of the hemisphere’s worst cases of economic inequality, Panama needs to follow Singapore’s lead in fighting corruption.

Singapore ranked fifth out of 177 countries in last year’s Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International (the higher the rating, the less corruption); Panama was 102nd -- a drop of almost 20 places from the previous year’s index.

Executives surveyed by the World Economic Forum have pegged corruption as Panama’s biggest problem for business.

Many of the qualities that have made Panama a hub for global trade and finance also attract malefactors. Drug cartels from Mexico and Colombia take advantage of its location, dollarized economy and free-trade zones to move their products and launder their proceeds.

Panama’s low tax rates (including no wealth or foreign income taxes) make it a haven for those seeking to shelter or hide assets.

Revenues from the canal and huge investments in infrastructure -- a five-year public investment program of as much as $15 billion amounted to more than 50 percent of Panama’s 2010 gross domestic product -- feed temptations for misappropriation, bid-rigging and bribery.

And notwithstanding five successive elected civilian governments since the 1989 U.S. intervention that toppled General Manuel Antonio Noriega, Panama’s civil institutions and democratic culture remain weak.

Its judiciary is seen as lacking political independence: In 2012, the World Economic Forum placed it 132nd out of 144 countries in that regard.

The news media faces intimidation and harassment.

And President Ricardo Martinelli’s administration has been marked by scandals and efforts to amass executive power. As one U.S. diplomatic cable put it, the president “may be willing to set aside the rule of law in order to achieve his political and developmental goals.”

This May’s presidential elections offer Panamanians a chance to bring in a new administration that would attack corruption with greater urgency.

It could start with transparency -- for example, by posting online more details on corporate ownership and taking other steps recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Panama also has yet to sign on to the World Trade Organization’s government procurement agreement, which would ease concerns about underhanded dealings on billions of dollars in contracts.

Strengthening Panama’s judiciary and building up anti-corruption institutions will take time; in the interim, a few aggressive prosecutions of cases involving corruption and abuses of authority would be a good down payment on reforms to follow.

What has made tiny Singapore such a success is not just its freedom of commerce, after all, but also its outsized commitment to following the rules.

Editor's Comment: Nice thoughts, but it's not going to happen. The problem is that all three of the main presidential candidates are basically equal when it comes to corruption. Panamanians have already tried the Panameñista (Arnulfista) party in Mireya Moscoso - and her administration was seen as one of the most corrupt in the countries history (and, that's saying something.)

The PRD had their turn in office - twice - from 1994 to 1999 with Ernesto Perez Balladares and from 2004 to 2009 with Martin Torrijos. They proved to be no better than the Panameñistas. The news headlines over the past several years have been filled with a steady stream of complaints and legal actions against the corruption activities of these past PRD administrations.

That left the door open to the Democratic Change party and Ricardo Martinelli. His strategy has been simple. They decided early on they would simply build more and get more done in five years in office than in the previous 40 - and then they actually pulled it off. The list of completed infrastructure projects is impressive - and so is the amount of money they've been making off of those contracts.

So the bottom line remains the same. Corruption in Panama among politicians becomes a common denominator, so therefore it gets zeroed out in the political calculus. Panamanian voters already know all politicians are corrupt, so they can stop wasting their time trying to hire someone who is not.

Jose Domingo Arias is now poised to win the election in 2014 and for the first time since the end of the dictatorship era, a political party will "repeat" in office or stay in power after a five year term. That means the CD will end up having appointed each and every judge on the Supreme Court. They will own every judge on the Electoral Tribunal. They will own the Attorney General, and Electoral prosecutor. In fact they already have control of practically every position of power worth having, and those they don't hold now, they will have after the 2014 elections. Their span of control over the Judicial system continues to strengthen every day.

So, clean up corruption in Panama? Dude, what are you smoking? Why shut down the party right after the first round of tequila shooters? Things are just getting warmed up, and it's only going to get worse.

It's a great time to be a CD party loyalist, and a really (really) bad time for anyone with a PRD tattoo. The Panameñista party will continue its amazing shrinking act and will eventually contract down to meaninglessness underscored by insignificance. The CD's allies the MOLIRENA party will continue to grow and prosper as their wingman. The new FAD party and Independent candidates will suck up the left wing radical fringe voters, and will never have a chance of assuming power.

But I agree with the basic premise of this editorial. Corruption is bad in Panama. Cases are investigated and tried selectively as political weapons against opponents - so what little anti-corruption action you do see, even that is tainted. I've been chanting for years that "there's no judicial security in Panama" so don't expect to be able to take your case to the courts and win, because you won't win. The Panamanian on the other side has more money and connections than you do, so you're going to lose. It's a problem, but external pressure isn't going to make it go away. It's not going to be significantly reduced any time soon.

Expect corruption in Panama to get worse, before it gets better. And that's also saying something...

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Security Minister Mulino Warns About Drug Money In Politics

Corruption Three months before the general election of May 4, Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, again warned about the incursion of drug money in Panamanian politics.

Mulino, who appeared before the National Assembly yesterday to deliver his report for 2013, stated that "the warning continues," without specifying which politicians could be receiving political contributions from drug traffickers.

"To every politician who has asked me, the recommendation I've made is - as a candidate or political party, place a lot of emphasis on overseeing what the (political) activists contract, so there will be no issues of gang rivalries among activists. We hope you have the necessary awareness of the seriousness of it, because it is stretching to our country as has happened in neighboring countries ," he said.

Mulino even called the list of private donors that candidates have to submit to the Electoral Tribunal a "cosmetic issue," because the candidates provide only the information they want to submit.

"It's another kind of money - off this list, the thing with which we have to very careful. Especially, so that the dramas occurring in other countries do not exist in Panama, where criminal gangs are the governing territories. There are donors ... and other donors. There are lists ... and no lists. There must be a lot of responsibility," he said.

Mulino said he has given non judicial information to the Attorney General Ana Belfon, who says over time it can help to prosecute these cases, with their own investigations conducted by the Public Ministry and the Direction of Judicial Investigation.

This is not the first time Mulino has spoken out about this topic.

On previous occasions, and without naming names, he warned about the possible incursion of money from drug traffickers into the campaigns of presidential candidates, and candidates for the National Assembly.

When speaking about his time in office, Mulino said crime rates are down, and he asked for the lawmakers not to see the issue of crime only in murders, because there are other important areas and types of crimes that have decreased from 2009 until now. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Allow me to translate. When Mulino says they have turned over "non judicial information" to the Attorney General, what that means is they have illegal recordings from cellular telephone conversations containing details about corrupt politicians receiving bribes or "campaign contributions" from drug traffickers and money launderers. Panama has some technical ability to intercept cellular phones in the country. They can plug in a number and monitor all activity - voice, data, and movements.

But what's even more likely is - the government of the United States and the NSA (or other outside intelligence agencies) have been providing detailed information regarding these sorts of activities to the government of Panama. Mulino, is the Public Security Minister, would be one of the few people in the Government of Panama who would receive that sort of a briefing. Add President Martinelli and the Minister of the Presidency to that list - but it's a short list.

Now, it's practically impossible under Panamanian law for the Attorney General to run out and arrest a political candidate based on NSA intercepts. It's equally illegal for the Attorney General to run out an arrest a candidate based on - illegal domestic wiretaps conducted and collected by the Panamanian government. Notice in this article where the Attorney General said they would use this "non judicial" information as a springboard for them to launch their own investigations. Translation = "now that we know who is dirty, we can try to dig up enough on them using our own investigatory powers to be able to prove it - without the need for the NSA wiretaps..."

It should surprise absolutely no one to learn drug traffickers are spending their money to buy politicians in Panama and to fund their campaigns. It's been happening all over Latin America for decades, and Panama is no different.

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The "Kangaroo Scandal" Claims Its First Victim

Corruption The ball is bouncing and the scandal spreads, over the allegations of offers of money to the leader of the youth of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) Felix Moulanier, for him to change from the PRD in order to join the MOLIRENA political party.

A text message on cellphone and a tweet, released yesterday, took the case to the center of the political stage.

At 3:52 pm yesterday afternoon president Ricardo Martinelli announced via Twitter he had accepted the resignation of the director of the National Lottery, Emilio Somoza, who has been wrapped in the so-called "Kangaroo Scandal" for having offered money and politically appointed positions (jobs) to the leader of youth of the PRD in exchange for him jumping ranks to the MOLIRENA political party.

"I just accept the resignation of the Director General of the National Lottery of Panama," Martinelli wrote.

Last Friday - just minutes before Moulanier filed a formal complaint over the alleged bribes before the Electoral Prosecutor - president Martinelli wrote via Twitter "if there is evidence of what is being denounced by Mr. Moulanier, the Director of the the National Lottery of Panama will be immediately fired."

Somoza did not wait for the conclusion of the investigation, and he left the position he held since last October, when he replaced the President of the MOLIRENA party, Sergio González Ruiz.

His Resignation Is Not Enough

The social networks exploded with comments following Somoza's resignation.

The former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez was one of the first to call for the investigation requested by Moulanier.

"Faced with what happened in front of the Electoral Tribunal with the Director of the National Lottery, it's good that he resigned, but it's not enough. There should be an investigation," she said.

The opinion expressed by the former Electoral Tribunal judge Guillermo Márquez Amado was similar to that of Gomez.

"The resignation of the director of the Lottery should not mean that the investigation should be suspended," he said.

Márquez Amado added that "the one who should resign is the Electoral Prosecutor."

Yesterday afternoon the secretary of the Electoral Prosecutor, Juan Alvarado, said an investigation has been started in this case.

Somoza, in a brief statement issued by the Presidency of the Republic, said he resigned to devote time to clear his name of what he calls 'false accusations.'

"Kangaroos" in Panamanian Politics

Three days after the scandal broke, Moulanier appeared on television where he displayed a conversation via text chat, in which he receives the alleged offer to abandon the opposition group.

The conversation displayed by Moulainer was with Eduardo Lamphery, who also claimed to be a member of the PRD.

"Brother," - says the conversation displayed by Moulanier - "50k for you to switch, and five positions for your wife and family members. Two positions of $2,000 (per month) and three of $500 (per month). It's right now. He's already talked to the HD president and SGR."

According to Moulanier, that was part of the offer made to him by the MOLIRENA party for him to resign from the PRD and to support the candidate of the ruling Democratic Change party, José Domingo Arias.

Moulainer's complaint received an immediate response from Lamphrey. He was clear when he said "I take responsibility for the chat, but I do not take responsibility for the conversation."

About the content of the conversation with Moulanier, Lamphrey explained that the "50k" mentioned in the chat "did not refer to money, but rather I was talking about 50 kangaroos."

This, he added, was part of the "jokes" he exchanged with Moulanier, who supported his campaign to become the Secretary of the Youth of the PRD.

Such discussions should not be presented in this way (on TVN and Telemetro) and must appear in court, said the lawyer and PRD member, and he challenged the complainant to prove the chat was his (from Lamphrey.)

The lawyer's explanation continued. "HD and SGR are people who I do not know," he replied when he was asked about the meaning of the initials.

For a similar case of a payment for someone to jump from one political party to another, there are those who dare to predict the outcome of the complaint filed by the PRD party member.

Aurelio Alonso, the Representative from Pajonal who denounced the bribery of Gabriel De Janon, said the Electoral Prosecutor will investigate, but he will do so in order to clear the names of those who are members of the ruling government party. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: "50k" means "50 kangaroos". That's rich. I love it when corrupt politicians are caught red handed. They say the funniest things with a straight face, and they expect us to just believe them at their word. These guys were flat-out buying political support with cash and jobs. The really funny part is - this isn't news. It's the way the Panamanian political machine has functioned for generations.

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Director of National Lottery Resigns

CorruptionLast Friday, Emilio Somoza, the Director of the National Lottery, presented his letter of resignation. President Ricardo Martinelli officially accepted his resignation. President Martinelli confirmed the information through his Twitter account. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: This is the guy who was left standing red-faced on the steps of the Electoral Tribunal, when supposedly the PRD Director of Youth was going to jump over to the MOLIRENA political party. That all blew up once the television cameras were rolling, and instead the PRD guy accused Somoza of having offered him money and political appointments (positions) within the Lottery if he would switch teams. And the next day, he resigned from his post for having embarrassed Martinelli's government.

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Punta Chame Residents Ask Judge To Expand Accusations

CorruptionThe Association of Friends of Punta Chame have asked the Fourth Criminal Court to expand the accusations being made in their case to include the former Director of Land Titling of the National Land Management Authority, Anabelle Villamonte, in the case involving her and three others for the granting of free land titles in the community.

The association, assisted by lawyer Donaldo Sousa, presented their request by filing a formal opposition to the prosecutor's opinion in the case, submitted by the Fifth Circuit Prosecutor on 26 July 2013.

In the prosecutor's opinion, the prosecution asked for the prosecution of the accused for the crime of falsification (forgery), but the Punta Chame residents claim they are also guilty of abuse of authority, influence peddling, and crimes against the environment.

According to their appeal, the prosecutor failed in its duty to fully investigate the case by ignoring evidence which support and prove the crimes that were committed.

They warn that the land which was granted to the company Puntabeach Interprises - measuring 9,381 square meters - never ceased being a public property, because when it was awarded it was little more than a sandbank.

What's more, it was an area used for recreation people, and it is also a nesting place for marine species, the basis for the charges of environmental crimes.

As for the offenses of abuse of authority and influence peddling, their appeal alleges there is sufficient evidence in the record which prove the irregularities that were committed.

But the prosecutor Ruth Morcillo dismissed the environmental offenses, arguing that when the land was was transferred it was not a public property, and she also denied the charge of abuse of authority saying summary evidence was not provided.

In addition to Villamonte, José Aristides Calderón, José Eleno Abad, and Marcelino Ramos are also accused in this case.

Editor's Comment: There is no judicial security in Panama. Let me say that again, because this is a very important issue. THERE IS NO JUDICIAL SECURITY IN THE REPUBLIC OF PANAMA! If you remember I broke this case a long time ago, and it's still being fondled by the judicial system. The people who committed these crimes are part of the administration of Ricardo Martinelli. And, the "system" will protect them from harm. Among the people who are getting screwed are American expatriates who purchased "beachfront property" in Punta Chame. They woke up one morning (literally) to find that survey stakes had been driven into the ground on the beach, between their property and the ocean. And, someone was trying to sell the land - effectively creating "new" land between their beachfront lots, and the ocean. The corrupt scumbags at the National Land Authority (ANATI) were exactly the same people who tried to pull a similar thing in Juan Hombron and some of the exact same people were involved. The documents in this case and the Juan Hombron case were practically signed on the same day. And there are a million more details. But what matters in the strategic scheme of things is that there is no judicial security in Panama. That means, if someone in power decides they want to take your shit, your shit is taken. And, there's not a God Damn thing you can do about it. So Fuck You Gringo. Have a nice day, and welcome to the third world. Surprised? Why? We screw our own people over, so why should you be any different?

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Vernon Ramos' Wife Denies He Was Spotted In The Darien

CorruptionSabina de Ramos, the wife of the former Deputy Director of Financial Analysis of the Office of the Superintendent of Securities, Vernon Ramos, denied that during the investigation conducted by the Public Ministry (MP) to try to find the former official, that a witness came forward who saw him in the Darien.

According to her, the Public Ministry conducted the investigations in the Darien, because at some point in time her missing husband Vernon was asking a family member questions about this area, so therefore investigators went to the area to see if anyone has seen him.

"No witness has seen my husband in the Darien. Unfortunately he has not been seen, and we are forced to continue with this uncertainty that has been with us for more than a year. We pray to God for this to be resolved," she said.

She added that as a family they visited several provinces in the country as tourists, but they never went to the Darien because of the threat posed by guerrillas. But she remembered the curiosity Vernon displayed and therefore the investigators went there.

"They are trying to exhaust all leads to see if my husband has left the country, or if he has gone somewhere else," she said on Telemetro, but she added "unfortunately, we have not had a positive response."

The wife, in a sad voice, said her doubts are growing that her husband might be alive somewhere, because it is not possible that he would not have established communication with her in some manner, or that no one has seen him.

"God willing, we will have some light very soon," Ramos asked .

Vernon Ramon was reported missing by his family in November 2012. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: I think Vernon Ramos was made to "disappear" because of his knowledge of insider trading and corruption within the Panamanian equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Panamanian government. There's a slim chance that he might have been scooped and flown to the US as a protected witness, but that's the stuff conspiracy theories are made of. Unfortunately, I think he's simply dead. Either someone killed him, or he killed himself.

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Gomez Questions Concession Granted To Moscoso

CorruptionThe former Attorney General and attorney, Ana Matilde Gómez, referenced the concession granted to the former president Mireya Moscoso for using the bottom of the ocean and the beach next to her mansion in Punta Mala, Los Santos.

"Yet another episode of this bad saga, the bad side of this was how the concession was granted and how she got the right to this property. Can someone explain to me why this concession is necessary? Because to me this is just another political embarrassment,” said Gómez.

The former Attorney General questioned the fact that these types of concessions are granted and ask the authorities to explain why they do this.

"This is a payment given to her for what she’s been doing since a while back. The government must change, because if it’s difficult to fight corruption, with the changes of this government, it will be worse if the same government continues,” she said.

The permit issued by the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP) was formalized with a contract signed by the administrator Roberto Linares on September 25. (Telemetro)

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Capriotti Talks About Martinelli In His Statement

CorruptionValter Lavítola is in prison once again. The prosecutors in Naples ordered his detention at the penitentiary center Poggioreale, where he will be held accountable for extortion against the company Impregilo, to which Lavítola was demanding to build a pediatric hospital in Veraguas.

While he was being taken to prison from his apartment in Rome, Angelo Capriotti’s (Mauro Velocci’s former boss) statements were made public to the prosecutors in Naples, who was trying to build prisons in Panama through the company Svemark.

According to Capriotti, Lavítola filmed a meeting with the former Silvio Berlusconi with prostitutes during his visit in Panama, with the intention of blackmailing him.

He also said Velocci had a video of Martinelli consuming cocaine; however, he said he never saw it.

He said he was sure that Capriotti heard the recordings of a conversation between the Italian ambassador in Panama, Giancarlo Curcio, his assistant Saverio Rossini and Mauro Velocci about the “explicit demand of 22 million dollars from Martinelli, as a bribe for the construction of prisons.”

Capriotti was the witness called by Ricardo Martinelli father and son to identify (as fake) the recording where Lavítola was talking about giving a helicopter to the President for free.

La Prensa called Martinelli to know his side of the story, but his phone was off. They also sent him an e-mail and he didn’t reply either. However, his spokesman, Luis Eduardo Camacho, said: “We don’t respond to the Italian drugadict [Velocci] or to the Panamanian opposition...”

“I don’t know anything about a video… You read the news, just like I did, where the witness said he has not seen any video… So you are reproducing news from a video no one saw,” he said. (Prensa)

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"Presents" For All The CD Members

CorruptionThe existence of a warehouse at the Naval Base in Rodman, in the Pacific, with containers filled with food, furniture, appliances and all kinds of presents who are allegedly going to be distributed to deputies, mayors and government representatives, sparked up a controversy among opposition politicians and spokesmen from the civil society.

The worst is they suspect these articles were acquired through funds from the National Help Program (PAN)—formerly known as FIS—. There were also reports of several trucks with yellow stripes from the State going in and out of the place.

The representative of Rio Abajo, the PRD member Javier Ortega, said no one from the PRD is getting anything from this hangar, “everything that’s in there is destined for the candidates of the Democratic Change Party.”

Meanwhile, the secretary general and deputy of the Panameñismo Political Party, Alcibiades Vásquez, said access to this area is restricted.

He believes the Electoral Prosecutor must investigate this situation.

Another Panameñismo member, Jorge Gamboa Arosemena, said this is the beginning of the “a nationwide Drinking Bowl” with all the gifts they will give out to promote the government candidates.

The deputy Fernando Carrillo, from the Democratic Change party, said he is not upset despite of this report on the hangar for proselytism, and he even said that if they are giving something away to take him into consideration.

“I have not been in this warehouse,” he said and also believes this report has to be investigated.

The opposition says the CD is striving to win or consolidate its electoral offer, for example, out of the 71 deputies from the Republic, 42 are government deputies.

“Distributing the Drinking Bowl” says the former magistrate and independent presidential candidate, Gerardo Solís, who warns about this being an electoral crime and says there is not a single electoral prosecutor doing something about this.

He says the operation of assembling and disassembling these “huge warehouses” are done by people who know a thing or two about logistics of wholesale distribution of products.

The political analyst, Mario Rognoni, says the government must explain this situation, because it is a complaint on purchase of household appliances to buy consciences and votes.

Rognoni believes it is necessary to clarify the budget that’s being used in case these are funds from the PAN.

Neither Rafael Guardia, director of the PAN, nor the government has talked about the issue. (Estrella)

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Everything Leads To Frankie Martinelli

CorruptionAfter signing a $2.3 million contract with a company offering “secretary services” and linked to Francisco ‘Frankie’ Martinelli’s attorney, Sofratesa de Panamá Inc., –subcontractor of the Panama Metro– received direct contracts from the State for the amount of $23 million.

In November 2011, for example, the same year when the “secret” contract was signed, Sofratesa received a direct contract of $21 million from the Civil Aeronautics Authority to build and equip a new air traffic control center tower in Albrook.

Frankie Martinelli’s relationship in these businesses is determined through three of his employees, one of them his former chauffeur Rodny Soto Núñez, who signed the “secret” advisory.

The three managed documents for Sofratesa and worked in the law firm Patton, Moreno & Asvat, from which the President’s cousin was fired. He’s also linked to the construction of a building in the exclusive area of Coco del Mar. (Prensa)

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Martinelli's Cousin Was Receiving Benefits Under The Table From The Metro

CorruptionThe attorney Francisco Frankie Martinelli –cousin of President Ricardo Martinelli– is linked to a company that signed a “secret” contract of 2.3 million dollars to advise and give “secretary” services to a subcontractor of the Panama Metro.

The company, Sarda Management, S.A., inscribed under the laws of the British Virgin Islands, was formed with the registered agent Rodny Soto Núñez, who was the personal chauffeur of Frankie Martinelli.

“I wish I had that of money,” said Soto Núñez, talking about the amount of the contract he signed. Meanwhile, his former boss decided to remain silent about it.

The “secret” contract was signed on 2011 with the company Sofratesa de Panamá, Inc., in charge of the engineering and installation works of the electromechanical systems of the Metro.

The treasurer of this company is the Dominican Jaime Bonetti Zeller, “personal friend” of President Martinelli. (Prensa)

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Torrijos Administration Used Contract Addendums To Steal Government Money

CorruptionIn 2008 , the Ministry of Government and Justice granted a multi-million dollar open ended contract for the repair of five helicopters. Other government institutions also appear on the list.

The 15 million dollar contract was with the company Hellitech Support Services and had an expiration date of May 13, 2010.

The irregularities and anomalies, identified by an audit report (investigation) conduct ​​in the various departments of the State into the multi million dollar projects awarded during the administration of former President Martin Torrijos, were not only involving the Ministry of Public Works (MOP).

The companies failed to perform within the established time limits established in the contracts, or the failed to perform to specification, and these problems were established as the primary causes of violation of the law of public procurement during the period 2004 -2009.

The list of government institutions involved includes the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ministry of the Presidency, Ministry of Government and Justice, and the Community Development Program (Prodec).

The report indicates in the Ministry of Health, under the administration of then Minister Camilo Alleyne, direct contracts worth 6.5 million dollars were signed between the MoH and the National Coordinator of Health (Consalud).

It jumps out that in this procurement Alleyne appears as the President and legal representative of Conades, and according to the director of the Social Security Fund (CSS ), René Luciani, they agreed to conclude the contract with an exception of public act and direct hire authority issued by the Cabinet, as recorded in Cabinet Resolution No. 31 of April 21, 2006.

The audit concluded this transaction was a benefit to a private company that worked with state funds. On the subject, the former Minister of Health refused to provide a statement.

In the now defunct Ministry of Government and Justice, contract number 10-208 between the State and the company Hellitech Support Services LLP was highlighted in the report.

On August 5, 2008 the company was ordered to proceed to recover five helicopters of the National Air Service ( Senan ) - AN-120, AN-21, AN-123, AN-125, and AN-134 - at a cost of $10.8 million to run over a period of two years (720 days).

The contract suffered an increase of five million dollars for "alleged" overruns in the work to be done. However, the aircraft were not delivered to satisfaction within the timeframe indicated.

The irregularities begins eight months after the order to proceed was executed, and without a resolution to suspend the contract, when the delivery schedule of the aircraft was suspended.

The then director of the SENAN, Rigoberto Gordon, left embodied in note number # 366-SENAN-DG dated 19 June 2009, where he said that during meetings held with the company representatives, "they presented a report of cost overruns that were generated in the order of $780,000 and the EFIS system in the cabin of the SAGEM brand proposed by Hellitech to modernize the cockpits, there were some problems with the specifications, so they recommended we should opt for the KRATOS brand, which although they cost more, the quality was superior," says the document.

Gordon also said the overall progress of the project was only 23%, as reported by the Panamanian technicians who traveled to Canada where the work was done. "There they noticed the slow progress of work versus the payment made."

Despite the warning, the audit documentation stresses that Hellitech billed and collected based on the request made for the replacement brand in the cabins for the Kratos system through Addendum 1 to Contract 10-208.

But this contract suffered a second violation committed by the company with the approval of the authorities. The company said "we have problems with Kratos, and offer to install screens of the Universal brand, although we don't know their overall price."

Following the notification, the company, without the consent of the state, proceeded to acquire the Universal brand screen Lies 2011 and installed them in the helicopter AN-120, without the corresponding addendum to authorize the change screen.

The former Minister of Government and Justice Daniel Delgado Diamante has his version with full knowledge of the facts.

"I left the Ministry in 2008. There was a program prepared by the former National Air Service (SAN) for the rehabilitation service for the helicopters in Canada and for the airplanes in Spain. This institution became the National Maritime Service (SMN) within the National Air Service (Senan) at the end of 2008," he said.

"I think that process was pending at the end of the Torrijos administration in 2009, and I imagine that both the repairs or recovery of said aircraft and the payments also would have been made to comply with such repairs, in the timeframe agreed," said Delgado Diamante.

In state contracts and the favored firms, there was a passivity on the part of the government employees responsible to make sure the projects were executed within the agreed timeframe.

However, the disbursements were developed without difficulty, and without having to comply with the specifications agreed in the contracts. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: This article appeared in the Panama America newspaper, which is basically owned and operated by the Cambio Democratico party. They will publish everything against the PRD or the Panameñistas, and in favor of the CD. In the case of these contracts, the government has held off on pointing out these supposed "irregularities" until just a few months before the next general election. The goal is to make it look like the PRD - Remember those guys? - mismanaged public funds while they were in office. This article is a dart thrown at the administration of Martin Torrijos, and therefore also at the PRD candidate Juan Carlos Navarro.

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Corruption hobbles development, generates other crimes - top UN official

CorruptionThe world's largest biennial gathering of delegates in the global fight against corruption opened in Panama today with the United Nations top crime fighter warning that the scourge not only hobbles sustainable development but generates other crimes.

“Corruption is the thief of economic and social development; stealing the opportunities of ordinary people to progress and to prosper,” UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Yury Fedotov told the opening meeting in Panama City of the Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

“Without corruption and bribery, millions of women, children and men cannot be trafficked as slaves; thousands of small arms cannot reach their violent destinations; and tons of illicit drugs cannot reach their consumers.”

Adopted 10 years ago, UNCAC is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument, now has 168 States Parties, and has gone further than any other UN Convention through its unique review mechanism that, after four years, has trained more than 1,400 anti-corruption experts and provided assistance to 35 States to amend their legislation. More than 1,500 participants are attending the five-day meeting.

Corruption has a devastating impact across the world. The World Bank estimates that every year between $20 billion to $40 billion are lost from developing countries due to corruption and bribery.

The environment also suffers. Water infrastructure costs, for example, are increased by as much as 40 per cent through corruption, which equates to an additional $12 billion a year needed to provide worldwide safe drinking water and sanitation.

Mr. Fedotov stressed that it would take everyone’s voice raised against corruption to bring true success. “We need a robust and strong coalition of Governments, business community, civil society, academia and media to resist corruption, and build a culture of prevention and integrity,” he said.

Participants at the meeting include representatives of Member States, civil society, private sector academia and the media, who will discuss best practices and successes in the fight against corruption under the umbrella of the Convention.

An entire chapter of the treaty is dedicated to preventing corruption with measures directed at both the public and private sectors, including model preventive policies, such as the establishment of anti-corruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties.

States must ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards that promote efficient, transparent recruitment based on merit. Public servants once recruited should be subject to codes of conduct, requirements for financial and other disclosures and appropriate disciplinary measures.

UNCAC requires countries to establish criminal and other offences to cover a wide range of acts of corruption, if these are not already crimes under domestic law. Countries are bound to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, and to extradite offenders.

Asset recovery is a fundamental principle of UNCAC, a particularly important issue for developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered national wealth and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies. In the case of the embezzlement of public funds, the confiscated property would be returned to the State requesting it.

Editor's Comment: Panama hosting a conference on corruption is like Iran hosting a conference on women's rights. In Panama money can buy freedom for drug traffickers - who walk right out of the front door of the prison. If you give enough money to the lawmakers in the National Assembly, you can get a law passed that will directly support (or allow you to create) your business. If you kickback enough money to officials in the executive branch, you get government contracts to build things. Panama is the capital of official government corruption - within all branches of government. No party or politician is exempt. They run for office simply so they can be the one doing the stealing...

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Citizens Were Protesting To Request Moncada Luna's Resignation

CorruptionSeveral people were protesting outside the Supreme Court of Justice on Friday noon.

These citizens were demanding the resignation of Alejandro Moncada Luna, magistrate president of the Court. The constitutionalist lawyer Miguel Antonio Bernal was at the place, as well as the presidential candidate Juan Jované, the leaders Olga Gólcher and Mitchell Doens, among others. Several members from the National Bar Association of Panama were also at the CSJ.

Moncada Luna suspended a decision from the Electoral Tribunal (TE) in regards to a television commercial, in a resolution from October 31 as part of a lawsuit of protection of human rights presented by the association pro government Panama Avanza.

This action was qualified to be unconstitutional by the civil society, politicians, unions of attorneys and magistrates of the CSJ, because the TE is the only institution allowed to interpret the electoral law. (Prensa)

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Many Criticize Moncada Luna's Silence

CorruptionThe former magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Esmeralda de Troitiño, said the president of this institution, Alejandro Moncada Luna, should have assisted immediately the requests of the magistrate Hernán De León as well as his colleagues Víctor Benavides and Luis Ramón Fábrega of meeting to analyze the situation between the CSJ and the Electoral Tribunal (TE), because this entity does not have a hierarchy among its members.

The Court’s Internal Regulations, in article 19, gives the authority to its president to convene the complete assembly for “ordinary and special meetings.”

On November 7 the magistrate Hernán De León requested a special meeting, and his colleagues Luis Ramón Fábrega and Víctor Benavides requested an emergency meeting, to talk about the ruling of the Third Chamber from October 31, presented by Moncada Luna, who revoked the decision of the TE of suspending a commercial in which the presidential candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Juan Carlos Navarro, was being criticized.

Personalities such as José Alberto Álvarez, from the National Bar Association of Panama; Celma Moncada, from Trial Attorneys; Maribel Jaén, from Peace and Justice; and Miguel Antonio Bernal, from Citizen’s Assembly, criticized Moncada’s silence and said he must give explanations to the entire society and the assembly.

The Third Chamber is formed by Moncada Luna, Víctor Benavides and Luis Ramón Fábrega. But the resolution against the TE was supported by Efrén Tello, Fábrega’s substitute, and Gabriel Fernández, José Ayú Prado’s substitute, members of the Criminal Chamber. (Prensa)

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A Complaint Was Filed Against Moncada Luna For Over Exercising His Functions

CorruptionThe president of the Popular Party, Milton Henríquez, filed a complaint before the National Assembly against the president of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), Alejandro Moncada Luna, for overstepping his role.

The complaint was filed after the ruling issued by Moncada Luna through the Third Chamber of the CSJ, revoking a decision from the Electoral tribunal of suspending the political propaganda against the presidential candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Juan Carlos Navarro.

Henríquez believes this type of ruling was not within the scope of the Supreme Court.

“I believe the path we have to follow is judging these magistrates and have them removed from their position, not only to stop this intrusion, but for this to warn other officials who plan on stepping on our Constitution and put our electoral process into question,” he said.

The magistrates of the Electoral Tribunal have asked the court to revoke this ruling which has caused a lot of controversy. (Prensa)

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