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Sunday, March 26 2017 @ 01:23 AM EDT

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Panama Threatens Colombia With Retaliation

Panama NewsThe Government of Panama gave the government of Colombia seven days to remove them from a list of "tax havens" and to start a dialog on the issue on an "equal footing." (more)

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Prosecutor Locks Down Controversial Moncada Luna Properties

CorruptionThe PRD National Assembly Deputy Pedro Miguel Gonzalez - who is acting as the prosecutor in the proceedings against Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna - has issued an order to the Public Registry to place a "provisional seizure" on the two properties worth more than $1.7 million dollars in Panama City, involved in a corruption scandal and investigation. (more)

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National Assembly Names Prosecutor and Judges To Go After Supreme Court Judge Moncada Luna

CorruptionThe situation for Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna for alleged unjust enrichment was clarified yesterday: The Credentials Committee of the National Assembly admitted the complaint filed against him, appointed judges to hear the case, and later in the afternoon they appointed a prosecutor. (more)

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DGI Investigating Supreme Court Judge For Unjustified Enrichment And Failure To Pay Income Taxes

CorruptionThe future of Judge Alejandro Moncada Luna gets more complicated every day. (more)

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US State Department's John Feeley Visting Panama

Panama NewsThe Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs John Feeley begins a two-day visit to Panama today, where he will sign a security agreement and meet with the country's president, Juan Carlos Varela. (more)

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Corrupt Supreme Court Judge Moncada Luna Also Bought A Million Dollar Beach House in Buenaventura

CorruptionThe scandal surrounding Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna may reach new heights, after his colleague Harry Diaz said he also purchased a beach house in Buenaventura, an exclusive development along Panama's Pacific coast. (more)

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California Man Appears in Houston on Fraud Charges

Expat TalesHOUSTON – Dean Lester Springer Sr., 54, of Pala Desert, Calif., has surrendered to federal authorities to face charges in connection with his sale of shipping containers for Intermodal Wealth Inc. and World Container, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Springer is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to launder funds and securities fraud. The superseding indictment, returned Oct. 1, 2014, also names co-defendant John Patrick Acord, 71, formerly of Magnolia. Springer made his initial appearance today and was permitted release upon posting bond, while Acord remains in custody.

The defendants allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme through their company called Intermodal Wealth. The company allegedly promised 13-16% per year guaranteed returns for investors who purchased shipping containers from the company. Investors would purchase the containers and the company was supposed to then lease them to others to generate income, according to the charges. However, Intermodal actually owned very few containers and none were leased.

To continue the scheme, the defendants allegedly provided investors with some monies, but these were generated through new investors rather than from actually leasing the containers.

The Texas State Securities Board eventually obtained an injunction against the defendants from operating the company due to the Ponzi scheme nature of the business and for not disclosing relevant court filings and judgments to investors.

According to the indictment, Springer began as a salesman for Intermodal. Following a cease and desist order against Intermodal, Springer then allegedly formed his own company called World Container in an effort to continue under the same business model. The indictment accuses Springer of misleading investors by reporting that World Container was not associated with Intermodal Wealth. He also allegedly misled investors by stating World Container was his company and that he would use their money to purchase shipping containers and lease them on their behalf. According to the indictment, Springer actually sent the investors’ money to Jones and Acord in Panama and was paid a commission for the sale.

The indictment also alleges that Springer failed to disclose material facts to investors in the sale of the securities as required under federal law.

The total loss in relation to this scheme is estimated at approximately $10 million.

If convicted, Springer and Acord face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the funds laundered.

Steven Patrick Jones, 50, formerly of Kingwood, was also charged in relation to this scheme. He has already pleaded guilty and is set for sentencing Dec. 18, 2014.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Texas State Securities Board and Houston Police Department Auto Theft Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman.

Editor's Comment: I had one source who told me John Patrick Acord had been arrested in Panama, but since there there was no follow-up reporting by US media. Therefore, I suspect my source was either wrong, misinformed, lying to me, or just yanking my chain. So therefore, Acord is probably still a fugitive hiding from justice in Panama.

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Moncada Luna Offers Inconsistent Explainations

CorruptionThe Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna gave inconsistent explanations on Wednesday to the newspaper Panama America, owned by the former president Ricardo Martinelli, about how he purchased two apartments for $1,724,200. (more)

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Pilots fight Panama Canal Authority over expansion

Canal ExpansionOfficials in charge of expanding the canal say Gaillard Cut can handle two post-panamaxes side-by-side but the pilots disagree

When expansion of the Panama Canal is complete, a battalion of local pilots will guide post-panamax vessels through the waterway’s new locks and widened channels.

But the leader of the union representing those 270 pilots tells TradeWinds that its members are being frozen out of discussions over navigation procedures for the widened canal, even though they will be on the frontline of ensuring larger vessels make it through without casualty.

Panama Canal Pilots’ Association president Rainero Salas says the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is imposing unsafe navigation procedures without the technical endorsement of the pilots.

And the pilots say the ACP is deviating from an expansion proposal presented in 2006 and disregarding studies on how vessels will transit the canal’s narrowest channels, while replacing the original navigation plan with one that is “irresponsible” and “reckless”.

However, in a statement provided to TradeWinds, the ACP said it recognises its workforce as its most valuable resource.

“Decisions made by the Panama Canal Administration regarding the operation of the expanded Canal are not made arbitrarily. They take into consideration the very valuable opinion of highly experienced workforce,” the agency said.

And it says negotiations should take place at the bargaining table as part of efforts to strike a new deal covering the 2,150 of its employees that are unionised.

Salas says the pilots want the ACP to start from scratch on developing navigational procedures, clawing back mandates and launching a more inclusive dialogue.

And the union leader believes the pilots will win in the end.

It is not clear how the war of words will play out as the delayed expansion project continues toward completion, which is currently scheduled for late 2016. By law, the pilots cannot go on strike but Salas says they have the discretion to refuse work they consider unsafe and to request, for example, additional tug support.

Salas acknowledges the canal could suffer slowdowns in transits if the two sides do not come to an agreement on operations.

“It’s not a threat. It’s just a fact. It can only be in the best interest of the canal that [we] do this carefully,” he said.

As an example of navigational procedures that the pilots question, Salas points to the ACP’s plans for navigation in the Culebra Cut, also known as the Gaillard Cut. It is the narrowest portion of the canal, buttressed in some parts by sheer rock walls.

The union leader says the ACP has issued notices to the pilots that post-panamax vessels of 49 metres in beam will be able to “meet” in the cut with the support of two tugs each, even though prior studies advise that the width accommodates only a single post-panamax ship safely. He alleges that there are no new hydrodynamic studies to support the change.

“This is not right. This is not responsible,” he said.

The ACP, however, says widening the cut to 218 metres will safely accommodate two post-panamax ships side-by-side.

Salas says the decision made years ago to build locks that use tugboats instead of locomotives will already have a negative impact on operations. The ACP counters, however, that using tugs for canal transits is a common practice around the world and the agency has purchased 14 state-of-the-art vessels for the task.

But lock design is in the past and construction is well underway.

The pilots say that they now want to be a part of making the most of what the ACP decided to build.

The pilots complain that the ACP has not set up sufficient training programmes to help them become familiarised with the new locks, despite the challenges of moving post-panamax ships through triple-chamber locks with tug support.

The ACP, however, argues that pilots have access to simulators using post-panamax vessels and that it recently unveiled additional training plans including scale model manoeuvring and the chartering of a post-panamax ship to begin trial lock transits once the first set of locks is complete.

Editor's Comment: The ACP will eventually learn that ignoring the warnings being issued by the Panama Canal Pilots was a mistake. But unfortunately there will likely be an accident first. Then the ACP will blame the pilot, and refuse to accept they adopted a significantly flawed plan from the start.

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Heads Up! Heavy Weather This Morning - Stay Home...

WeatherBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Panama's National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) has issued a warning regaring a weather system that will be impacting Panama this morning. (more)

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(Martinelli's) Corrupt Comptroller Is Now Protecting (Martinelli's) Corrupt Supreme Court Judge...

CorruptionThe public declaration of personal assets filed by Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna cannot be found in the files of the Second Notary - It is now in the hands of the Comptroller of the Republic Gioconda Torres de Bianchini. (more)

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Oferta Simple - Special Offer: Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort

Travel & TourismThe ultimate Fiestas Patrias getaway is now available on OfertaSimple.com. Enjoy all inclusive stays at the Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort at up to 56% OFF.

The resort, winner of TripAdvisor's 2013 Traveler's Choice award, is located just 15 minutes away from the city and the current deal on OfertaSimple.com features buffet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner in additional to open bar. Valid on weekdays and weekends from October 22nd until December 23rd.

Check out the offer here: OfertaSimple.com

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National Police Will Take Over Security In Panama's Prisons

Crime & PunishmentAccording to the director of the National Police, Omar Pinzon, the entity is ready and has enough officers to meet the order issued by the President, Juan Carlos Varela, to take over Panama's prisons, after the shooting that happened in the Nueva Esperanza prison in the province of Colon. (more)

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Immigration Service "Flagrantly Violated" Due Process By Preventing Canadian Journalist Rosie Simms From Entering Pa

Gold & MiningPanama's National Immigration Service "flagrantly violated due process" by preventing the Canadian journalist Beatrice Rosie Simms' entry into Panama, which occurred on January 20, 2012. (more)

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Japan's Astomos orders new VLGC equipped to transit expanded Panama Canal

Canal Expansion(Platts) Japan's top LPG supplier, Astomos Energy, said Monday, September 29, it has placed an order to build a VLGC with a capacity of 83,000 cubic meters that will be equipped to pass through the expanded Panama Canal.

The order was placed with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the tanker is to be delivered in the second half of 2016, Astomos Energy said, adding that the new VLGC will replace an older tanker in its fleet.

The Panama Canal Authority is targeting January 2016 for the expansion startup, but the market expects it sometime later that year.

The latest move is part of Astomos Energy's plans to scrap tankers that are 20-25 years old and build new VLGCs to replace them, while it also maintains or expands its use of chartered vessels to have a competitive and stable fleet amid expected increases in LPG output from the US and West Africa.

This is Astomos' third order this year for a vessel that can transit the expanded Panama Canal.

Astomos' previous orders were placed in March and July for VLGCs to be delivered in Q1 2016 and Q4 2016.

In December, Astomos placed two other orders for building new VLGCs that can transit the expanded Panama Canal. Those vessels are scheduled to be delivered in Q4 2015 and Q1 2016.

The vessel in Astomos Energy's latest new tanker order will be part of a fleet that is time-chartered and operated by Japan's Iino Lines, the company said.

As of September, Astomos Energy has a total of 21 VLGCs in its fleet, of which six are its own vessels and the other 15 are time-chartered tankers.

The company aims to expand its LPG fleet to around 30 VLGCs by 2020, Astomos Energy president Osamu Masuda said in April.

Editor's Comment: Just another example of a trickle-down resulting from Panama's decision to expand the Panama Canal.

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Stephanie Weston-Pineda Screws Up The Panamanian Anthem At A Boxing Match in Texas

Panama NewsBefore the Panamanian former boxing champion Anselmo 'Chemito' Moreno got into the ring, Stephanie Weston Pineda became the star of the night at the Mesquite Arena in Texas, after she made a big mistake and screwed up the beautiful words of the National Anthem of Panama. (more)

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Regional Health Centers Being Supplied By Water Tankers

Infrastructure UpgradesAmong the beneficiaries are the San Miguel Arcángel, Policlínica Manuel María Valdés, and Susana Jones. (more)

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Panama Making Progress Against Extreme Poverty

Money MattersThe goal of halving the proportion of the total population living on less than a dollar a day was fulfilled by Panama well before the 2015 deadline. (more)

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45 Homes Affected By Flooding

WeatherAt least 45 homes were affected by flooding yesterday in the district of La Chorrera and Arraiján, according to reports from the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC). (more)

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National Assembly Debating "Melting Pot" Immigration Program

Immigration IssuesThe spokesman for the Arena Group, Rafael Rodriguez, said the atmosphere created due to the request to suspend Panama's "melting pot" program to normalize the immigration status of foreigners, could create a negative perception among the tourists who are visiting the country. (more)

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Four Injured In Traffic Accident

Traffic AccidentsOne man and three women of Costa Rican nationality suffered a car accident near the entry of Churube (Penonomé). (more)

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'Call of Duty' creators seek to dismiss suit by ex-Panama leader Manuel Noriega

Panama News(CNN) -- The creators of the "Call of Duty" video game franchise on Monday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who says the 2012 video game "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" has damaged his reputation.

Noriega, 80, is serving a prison sentence in Panama after being convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and killing political opponents.

Creators of the video game called the lawsuit "frivolous" and filed the motion to dismiss it on the ground that Noriega's portrayal in the game is protected by the First Amendment.

"What's astonishing is that Manuel Noriega, a notorious dictator who is in prison for the heinous crimes he committed, is upset about being portrayed as a criminal and enemy of the state in the game Call of Duty. Quite simply, it's absurd," said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, attorney for the video game creator, Activision Blizzard Inc.

"This is a notorious dictator who's attacking the freedom of speech rights of an American company," Giuliani told CNN.

Noriega, 80, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July. In it, he argues that his portrayal "as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state" in the 2012 video game damaged his reputation. The company used his image and name in order to make money, the lawsuit says; therefore, he's entitled to a share of the profits.

"Plaintiff was portrayed as an antagonist as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorized to use plaintiff's image and likeness," the lawsuit says.

The video game includes historical footage and several real-life characters in Cold War scenarios, including former Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.

But while North did his own voiceover for the game and acted as an adviser, Noriega said in the July lawsuit that he wasn't consulted -- or compensated -- for the use of his likeness.

"Call of Duty" video games take storylines from current headlines, and its characters are based on historical figures, from former Cuban leader Fidel Castro to David Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director.

Giuliani called Noriega's lawsuit "an assault on a whole art form -- historical fiction."

"If this were allowed, it would be like (former al Qaeda leader Osama) bin Laden's family suing for 'Zero Dark Thirty,' " Giuliani said. "Obviously that shouldn't be allowed."

For almost two decades, Noriega was a major player in a country of critical regional importance to the United States because of its location on the Panama Canal, the key strategic and economic waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the narrow isthmus linking the Americas.

Amid growing unrest in Panama, then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered the invasion of the Central American nation in December 1989, saying Noriega's rule posed a threat to U.S. lives and property.

Noriega fled his offices and tried to seek sanctuary in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City.

He surrendered in January 1990 and was escorted to the United States for civilian trial.

Noriega was indicted in the United States on charges of racketeering, laundering drug money and drug trafficking. He was accused of having links to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar's notorious Medellin cartel and, in the process, amassing a multimillion-dollar fortune.

He was convicted of drug trafficking and other crimes and served nearly two decades in prison.

In 2010, a French court sentenced Noriega to seven years in prison for laundering 2.3 million euros ($2.9 million) through banks there. He was ordered to pay the money back.

In Panama, where he was convicted of killing political opponents, he has been hospitalized several times since he returned in 2011 to serve out his prison sentence. (CNN)

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Wall Collapse in Casco Viejo

Safety & SecurityA masonry wall, part of the facade of the PH Plaza Independencia in Casco Antiguo, San Felipe, collapsed yesterday as workers executed at remodeling project of the old structure. (more)

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Supreme Court Grants Request For Access To Spending Data

Law & LawyersThe Supreme Court granted a "habeas data" request filed by Erasmo Muñoz and ordered the Ministry of Economy and Finance to provide information on the movements of ordinary and extraordinary funds, made ​​to the town council in Parita, in the province of Herrera, from 1 October 2013 to 24 December of the same year. (more)

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Panama’s Supreme Court Confirms New Trial Against Noriega

Panama NewsPanama’s Supreme Court has confirmed former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega is to be tried for the murder of an opponent in 1969, a case initially dismissed five years ago.

In a statement released Thursday, the court said a lower chamber had filed charges last month against Noriega for the alleged murder of opponent Luis Antonio Quiroz Morales who went missing after being detained by Noriega.

In addressing an appeal by the public prosecutor’s office against the case’s earlier dismissal, the lower court said there was evidence placing Noriega in the location where Quiroz was last seen alive.

This evidence, the court argued, indicates “physical presence and opportunity.”

According to the case file, on Aug. 19, 1969, Noriega, then a commander in the Panama National Guard, accompanied by other officers, arrived “in a jeep at Luis Antonio Quiroz Morales’s residence, put him in the vehicle and since then nothing is known of his whereabouts so he is presumed dead.”

Quiroz Morales, the court said, “was accused of collaborating with suspected guerrillas.”

It is now up to the Superior Court of the Third Judicial District to set the schedule for legal procedures and the eventual murder trial.

Noriega’s defense will be presented by attorney Gisela Vega, the Supreme Court said.

After his ouster as Panama’s leader in a U.S. invasion in 1989, Noriega has served prison terms in the United States and in France for drug trafficking and money laundering.

He is currently in a Panamanian prison serving a 60-year sentence for human rights violations. (See Comments)

There are at least two more trials pending against Noriega for the disappearances and deaths of opponents between 1968 and 1989. (Latin American Herald Tribune)

Editor's Comment: No, not human rights violations. Noriega is in prison, serving sentences for murder...

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Parents Of Kris Kremers Want To Return Her Remains To Holland

Expat TalesThe parents of Kris Kremers are coming to Panama in two weeks, said Jerome van Pasell, a spokesman for the families of the two young Dutch women who apparently lost their lives in early April in an inhospitable area of Boquete, Chiriqui. (more)

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Panama Expands Use Of Facial Recognition Software

Panama NewsPanama has expanded the use of FaceFirst's facial recognition software system at its Tocumen International Airport.

FaceFirst said its system is now being used at the airport's North Terminal as a result of increased passenger volume at the airport and the system's success in identifying suspect individuals since its introduction at the airport and the country's border crossings in 2011.

"We are proud to be a part of this $936 million investment in the expansion of Tocumen International Airport," said FaceFirst Chief Executive Officer Joe Rosenkratz.

"The inclusion of our technology in this expansion is a testament to its beneficial influence on heightening border security and safety within nations."

FaceFirst said that the facial recognition system has resulted in the apprehension of multiple Interpol suspects, enabled the ongoing tracking and captures of multiple regional and nationally wanted persons, and enabled the geo-fencing of authorized people throughout the larger airport facility since it was first installed.

"The FaceFirst facial recognition system installed at Tocumen is capable of detecting 30 people per day who have a police record or who are wanted by Interpol, and thus are not allowed to enter the country," said (former) Panamanian Minister of Public Security Jose Mulino. (UPI)

Editor's Comment: This helps to explain how Panama has been detecting and arresting a steady string of wanted criminals as they are passing through the Tocumen International Airport as a stop at Copa's "Hub Of The Americas," on the way to their final destination. The bottom line remains the same - if you are wanted for anything, anywhere - stay away from Panama.

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Italy Opens A New Corruption Investigation (Involving Panama and Martinelli)

CorruptionThe Prosecutor of Naples, Italy launched a new international indictment for aggravated corruption against the Italian citizen Valter Lavítola. (more)

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Panama To Establish US-Backed Counter Drug School

Drug TraffickingUndersecretary of State Against International Drug Trafficking in the United States, William R. Brownfield, on Wednesday visited the headquarters of the Panamanian border police to launch bilateral actions to improve the fight against drug trafficking in the region. (more)

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Panama's (Martinelli's) Anti Corruption Czar Facing Criticism

CorruptionYesterday some elements of the "civil society" in Panama demanded the resignation of the Chief of the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai), Abigail Benzadón, after she issued a self-assessment report, highlighting the fact that the institution has not brought sanctions against the institutions or officials who have restricted the public's access to information. (more)

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