Site Meter
Send Us An Email
Panama Guide

Welcome to Panama Guide
Saturday, August 02 2014 @ 12:31 AM 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.
View Printable Version

Scandal Splashes Another Of Martinelli's Cousins

CorruptionThe mayor of the district of Portobelo, Carlos Chavarria, said the dentist Reinaldo Della Togna Martinelli - a cousin of the former President Ricardo Martinelli - demanded $80,000 to lobby the then Minister of Economy and Finance, Frank De Lima, in order to attend to the company A2Z Strategy Construction Panamá, S.A. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Junk Cars "Burning Gas" At The Labor Ministry (Stealing Public Funds For Fun And Profit)

CorruptionThe Minister of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel), Luis Ernesto Carles, said in a statement on the Telemetro news he would continue to conduct audits and that "it doesn't matter what the former officials of the previous administration say." (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

New AMPYME Director Files Complaints Over Corruption

CorruptionAda Romero, following her ratification as the new Director of the Office of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (Ampyme) said she would be filing a series of legal complaints on Friday before the Public Ministry, for the alleged irregularities they have found within the institution. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panama Will Increase Transparency At Consulates To Reduce Corruption

CorruptionPanama's Vice President and Chancellor, Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, presented a draft of a new law before the Cabinet Council meeting yesterday involving greater transparency of the Consular system, seeking to reform the functions Panama's consulates and the registration of ocean going ships under the Panamanian flag, which could result in a 25% increase revenue in this sector. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Florist: "I was pressured by friends of the president to give up the land"

CorruptionCésar Segura, the florist who was granted an area of 5,700 square meters of land in Punta Paitilla revealed on Tuesday during an interview on Telemetro, that he have up his land in 2011 after reaching an agreement with the Btesh and Virzi group, in which he was promised the payment for the property would be with other property. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Only Four Of Varela's Cabinet Members Have Complied With Constitutional Requirements

CorruptionPublic servants who failed to file a statement of assets within the time frame as established by the Constitution could face a judicial process that is punishable with imprisonment, explained experts in administrative law matters. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Abigail Benzadón Filed A Complaint Against The Former Head of the Transit Authority

CorruptionThe Attorney General's Office is handling a complaint filed against the former director of the Land Transit and Transportation Authority (ATTT) Roberto Moreno, for offenses against public administration and public faith, and for irregularities in the purchase of items for the institution. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panameñista Politicians File Public Statements of Personal Assets (As Required By Law)

CorruptionThe President of the National Assembly, Adolfo Valderrama; Panama City Mayor Jose Blandon and the president of the republic, Juan Carlos Varela, presented statements of their assets yesterday. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

New AMPYME Minister Finds "Irregularities"

CorruptionThe Minister of the Micro, Small, and Medium Business Authority (AMPYME), Ada Romero, denounced that they have found a series of irregularities in this authority which they have just taken over as part of the new government, and that by Friday she will have submitted an official complaint to the Public Ministry, for them to start and investigation. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Mendez to Blandon: "The People Want To See How You Keep Your Promises, Not A Witch Hunt"

Corruption"I do not understand, because now they have uncovered something I have already explained," said the former Mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez, in response to questions raised by the new Mayor Jose Isabel Blandon. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Hearing Today in Italy For International Corruption in Panama

CorruptionThe trial for international corruption in Panama over the alleged payment of bribes for contracts with Finmeccanica against Valter Lavitola will be held today in Italy. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Franklin Oduber Could Be Guilty Of Corruption (Ya' Think?)

CorruptionThe overflights made by government officials from the National Authority of Land Management (Anati) to photograph from the air properties owned by the political opponents of president Ricardo Martinelli in December 2013 will be investigated, starting on 2 July 2014, by one of Panama's Anti Corruption Prosecutors, revealed yesterday the Attorney General Ana Belfon. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Varela Denounces Use Of ANATI For Political Persecution

CorruptionJosé Luis "Popi" Varela, recently reelected as a Deputy to the National Assembly and the brother of president-elect Juan Carlos Varela, presented evidence on the Telemetro television news broadcast indicating on 4 December 2013 government officials working for the National Land Authority (ANATI) rented a helicopter to take photographs of land owned by Juan Carlos Varela, the presidential candidate for the PRD party Juan Carlos Navarro, and his running mate Gerardo Solis. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Financial Pacific - Linked To International Investigation

CorruptionAn international investigation reveals links between the case of the Financial Pacific brokerage house and the former Treasurer of the Partido Popular political party in Spain, Luis Bárcenas, who has been accused of illicit enrichment, and whose fortune is estimated at 48 million Euros (or 65 million dollars, today.) (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Attempted Assassination Against Vernon Ramos' Assistant (Financial Pacific Case)

CorruptionGustavo Gordon, a government employee who works for the Superintendency of Market Securities who is scheduled to testify before the Thirteenth Prosecutor for the trial of Mayte Pellegrini, who has been accused of financial crimes to the detriment of the brokerage house Financial Pacific, was stabbed yesterday in the park Urracá, on Avenida Balboa. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Alejandro Perez Threatens To Sue For "Violating His Privacy"

CorruptionThe lawyer and former Minister of Government, Alejandro Pérez defended himself on Monday morning, after the broadcast of a video that was posted on YouTube, after a collision with another vehicle, showing him exchanging words with the other driver involved in the accident. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panamanian Politician Alejandro Perez - Driving Drunk, Causes Accident, Leaves Scene (Video)

CorruptionBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - There's a minor flap in the morning news today, after the prominent politician Alejandro Perez was caught on video tape over the weekend - drunk, causing a traffic accident, being combative and belligerent, and leaving the scene of an accident. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former IDAAN Officials Sentenced To Three Years In Prison For Stealing Materials

CorruptionThe Thirteenth Criminal Court sentenced three former officials of the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (Idaan) to three years in prison, for their roles in a network that was stealing supplies and materials from the IDAAN's warehouse, which were then resold. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Supreme Court Keeps Financial Pacific Former Directors On The Sidelines

CorruptionThe Third Chamber of the Supreme Court denied a request made by Ivan Clare, one of the former directors of Financial Pacific, asking for the suspension of a resolution issued by Panama's Superintendency of Market Securities provisionally and indefinitely suspending his license as a securities broker. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

President-Elect Varela's Name Appears In Lavitola Case File in Italy

CorruptionThe president-elect of Panama Juan Carlos Varela appears in the case file against the former Director of the Italian newspaper Avanti, Valter Lavitola, and the former Commercial Director of the Italian group Finmeccanica, Paolo Pozzessere, for alleged bribes paid to Panamanian officials. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Tocumen Fuel Tank Concession Going To "Friends of Martinelli"

CorruptionPresident-elect Juan Carlos Varela said yesterday the approval of a grant of 4.5 hectares of land is going to "business people who are close to the president (Ricardo Martinelli)" related to a concession for the distribution of jet fuel to aircraft at the Tocumen airport. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panamanian Prosecutors Travel To Italy For Finmeccanica Corruption Case

CorruptionOfficials from Panama's Public Ministry traveled to Italy to learn the details that are being released in that country regarding Lavitola Valter who faces charges of international corruption conducted in several countries, including Panama. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former MIDES Officials Sentenced To Prison For Embezzlement Case

CorruptionSix former officials of the Ministry of Social Development (MIDES) were sentenced to prison for fraudulent embezzlement, through the use of checks to pay for travel and per diem expenses during a tour to promote the "100 for 70" social assistance program. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Witnesses in Italy Testify - The Bribes Were For Martinelli

CorruptionGiusseppe Schiattarella, the Chief of the Research and Special Operations Division of the Carabinieri Corps, and Mauro Velocci, the former president of the Svemark consortium - the company that was to build modular prisons in Panama - said yesterday before the judges of the Court of Naples, Italy, that the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, was the final recipient of the bribes. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Balbina Herrera Calls for Probe

CorruptionThe PRD politician Balbina Herrera said issues such as the Valter Lavítola scandal should be reviewed in the next administration.

According to Herrera, it is extremely important and sensitive for the country that President Martinelli has been called to testify in Italy. (Mi Diario)

Editor's Comment: Balbina Herrera keeps coming back, like a bad burrito...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panama Closes Bribery Case - After US Fails To Cooperate With Investigation

CorruptionPanama's Superior Prosecutor for Organized Crime requested the judges responsible for the case to provisionally close a case involving allegations of the payments of bribes to officials of the Civil Aviation Authority by the US company BizJet, that received the contract to maintain the presidential aircraft between 2004 and 2009.

The prosecutor sent his request in early March 2014, because law enforcement authorities in the United States failed to respond to a second request for judicial assistance in order to clarify key pieces of data (evidence) contained in the Panamanian investigation.

The prosecutor sent their first request for assistance to the United States in May 2012 asking for collaboration, but the answer they sent in response to the Panamanian investigators was not enough (insufficient) for them to continue the investigation.

They sent a second request for assistance in 2013, asking for the evidence that linked the Panamanians to the alleged bribes.

According to judicial sources, these elements would be important to the process.

The director of the AAC, Rafael Barcenas, confirmed that the officials mentioned in investigation in the United States are still working for the entity, and while there is no legal decision his office will not take any action against them.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened an investigation into the alleged payment of bribes by BizJet in Panama, Mexico and Brazil.

Later, a Federal Court in the United States sentenced two of the company's executives.

According to Mexican media reports broadcast in April 2013, the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority paid $2.8 million to BizJet International Sales and Support Inc., between 2004 and 2009, for maintenance of the presidential aircraft.

Two of the four former directors of BizJet who were processed in the United States were sentenced after pleading guilty to paying bribes.

According to the FBI process, BizJet paid bribes to Panamanian officials of the Civil Aviation Authority. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: What? In the United States there's a law known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This law is (supposedly) designed and intended to prevent US companies from doing exactly this - paying bribes to corrupt foreign officials in order to secure government contracts for their businesses. In reality however all FCPA enforcement actions have been voluntary disclosures by the companies involved. The BizJet case was also a voluntary disclosure.

There's a good chance the Department of Justice in the United States either failed or refused to respond to the request for information submitted by the Panamanian prosecutor due to the details of the negotiated settlement between BizJet and the US government. If you look at the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) in this case, "Official 6" is the Chief Mechanic for the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority who received the bribes and a cell phone, in exchange for securing the government contract to repair and maintain the aircraft used by Panamanian president Martin Torrijos. Specifically, items #25 and #26 on page A-26 of the DPA include the details about the payment of the $10,000 bribe and purchase of a cell phone.

The Panamanian Superior Prosecutor for Organized Crime opened an investigation, and has been trying to bring this "Official 6" to justice within the Panamanian legal system for more than two years now. I first covered the story when the US Department of Justice issued their press release (See: Oklahoma firm fined for paying bribes in Mexico, Panama 15 March 2012). There was one more story a year later, when the sentences were announce for the two former BizJet executives (See: Former US BizJet Executives Convicted For Paying Bribes in Panama 9 April 2013). If you look at the actions taken by the Attorney General's office in Panama, they issued their first request for information when this case became news in 2012. Then they followed up with a second request on April 2013, when the convictions were announced. So apparently the Attorney General's office has been responding to the news media reports on this case. Now, one year later, their "clock" has run out on this investigation.

But notice the prosecutor is asking for the case to be "provisionally" closed in Panama against the as yet unnamed "Official 6," the government employee who received the bribe. This means that, at some time in the future if they get more or additional information, they can come back and ask the court to reopen the case. Like, if the US officials in the Department of Justice respond to their request for information, and provide them with the "smoking gun" information then need in order to bring this corrupt official to trial.

The details of the DPA also make it perfectly clear that the BizJet company did everything in their power to cooperate and assist the US Department of Justice in this investigation. They discovered the illegal activity during an internal audit. Once they figured out what was going on, they disclosed the results of their investigation, and fully cooperated with the investigation. The DPA also requires BizJet to cooperate with the investigations being conducted by foreign law enforcement agencies into corrupt officials. See Item #5 which starts on page 3 of the DPA.

So, both BizJet and the Department of Justice know the identity of "Official 6" who works at the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority. The DOJ can (if they wanted to) provide that information to Panama's Attorney General, so they can proceed with their investigation and prosecution.

The question remains - why haven't they responded? I called the Department of Justice to ask. The office where the two prosecutors who worked on this case responded by saying "we have no comment, you have to call public affairs" and they gave me the number. I called them, explained what was going on, and asked for a comment or statement from the DOJ. That was early this morning, and I expected to have received some sort of a reply by this afternoon - but nada. Maybe there will be a surprise waiting for me in my email inbox tomorrow, but I doubt it.

I also spoke to Professor Mike Koehler from the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Law, who is "the" recognized expert when it comes to issues dealing with the implementation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He has published articles related to this BizJet case, and he helped me understand what was probably going on between the DOJ and BizJet, and why.

The bottom line remains the same. Panama is about to drop their efforts to investigate a corruption case, because the US Department of Justice either can't or won't give them enough solid evidence to prove exactly who "Official 6" is - so they can mount a legal case against him. So yeah, obviously the DOJ is all about helping third world countries fight corruption. Sure. We hear you...

And how screwed is BizJet on this deal? They found out about the criminal activity that was happening inside of their own company, and reported it to the government. They helped the investigation, and cooperated completely. And what did they get for their troubles? A fine of 11.8 million dollars. When you compare that to the FACT that the only cases the DOJ has ever prosecuted under the FCPA are those involving companies (like BizJet) who have "self-reported" - the obvious answer for every other US company who is watching this Kluster unfold is simple. BizJet could have simply fired the offending employees, shred all of the documents, delete the emails, and forget it ever happened. The odds are exactly 0% that the DOJ will investigate, sleuthing on their own accord, to uncover these dastardly deeds. And what's the worst that can happen? A fine of $11.8 million? Yeah, good call, BizJet. Gotta make the lawyers happy, first. I'm sure the penalties would probably be much stiffer if you actually did try to cover something like this up, but damn...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former DEA Regional Director Confirms Evidence Exists Against Varela

CorruptionConfirmation that it was Michelle Lasso who paid the initial down payment in 2011 for the luxury yacht being purchased by the presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela, while she was, at that time an important part of a money laundering network for $150 million of the illegal proceeds of Internet gambling in the United States, could be enough of a reason for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other justice organizations to open a new investigation, that could involve the Vice President of Panama.

The former director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for Mexico and Central America, Larry Holifield, said yesterday the documents that have been presented in the news media are sufficient grounds for the United States to start an investigation into the case that links Varela to a money laundering network, and a foundation that received money from two consulates that could be, supposedly, acts of corruption.

On 14 April, the Miami based U.S. newspaper Diario Las Americas launched a journalistic investigation in several series, in which they linked Varela with the Don James Foundation, which was financially managed by Michelle Lasso between 2009 and 2011, the period of time during which she was under investigation by the FBI for her involvement in a network of illegal gambling led by Phillip Gurian.

The Don James Foundation and the Lasso family moved nearly 30 million dollars, including deposits of large sums from the Panamanian Consuls Jaime Lasso in South Korea, and Alberto Arosemena in Kobe, Japan.

The Diario Las Americas said in their investigation the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation and the funds diverted from the Consulates Varela controlled during the early years of the Martinelli administration could have been mixed with the money managed by Michelle Lasso from the illegal Internet gambling activities in the United States.

One indication of this is that Lasso paid the initial payment of $175,000 from her personal bank account at the Bank of America for the purchase of Varela's luxury yacht from the Bertram Yacht Corporation.

This bank account could be one of Lasso's bank accounts seized in the United States after she pleaded guilty to the offense of money laundering, where she was convicted and sentenced by a federal court.

"I imagine, and I bet that in this case there are already people interested in the FBI, the Treasury of the United States (IRS), the Justice Department, and the Attorney General of Panama. The U.S. Embassy in Panama should also be interested in this case, because in my experience I've never seen as much documentation such as in this case, and the linking of a person of such importance in a country," said Holifield, who was also the Deputy Director of the DEA in Bogotá between 2002 and 2006.

He said the opening of an investigation should clarify where the money came from, and why it was sent to the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation, and why Vice President Varela is receiving amounts of money from this foundation.

Holifield said in the cases he has had to investigate, he had to deal with many rumors, and there are people who will say anything, but in this case there is a lot of documentation that directly link the people involved.

"There are documents in this case which say a lot, there is a lot of activity that looks like money laundering, and we have Michelle Lasso admitting to having been involved in money laundering. The thing missing are the witnesses which could complete the investigation. With a witness they could have an important case," said Holifield.

The former Regional Director of the DEA also said there would be no problem with Michelle Lasso being a part of any new investigation, even though she has already been convicted of money laundering.

"She lived in Florida during this activity, and what's more they have had recordings as evidence in the gambling case. They already have recordings and who knows what else they have. Another investigation can be opened in the United States against Michelle Michelle because these are different criminal acts," said Holifield .

Despite the documentary evidence, on Wednesday Varela denied having received money from Michelle Lasso, but admitted having received payments from the Don James Foundation, supposedly justified as donations to his campaign and family investments. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Well, I really don't see how a new investigation can be opened up against Michelle Lasso, because she has already been investigated and convicted of money laundering. Holified says this is a different criminal act, but where? I don't get it. Maybe I'm missing something. to me it seems like the same activity of money laundering.

However, he does make a great point in that the FBI and Justice Department already have thousands of hours of telephone call recordings of Michelle Lasso. They can certainly look at the $175,000 supposedly spent as the initial down payment for Varela's luxury yacht, and if that money came from the illegal Internet gambling operation, then it most certainly could also be seized. If it's still in Miami, that is. And of course, if her father Jaime Lasso and the Don James Foundation were involved in the money laundering operation, then of course they could also seize all of those funds as well.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Convicted Money Launderer Michelle Lasso Made First Payment on Varela's Luxury Yacht

CorruptionIn March 2011, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration already had Phillip Gurian and the Panamanian Michelle Lasso under surveillance, for being behind an international network of money laundering from illegal Internet gambling.

The network operated 54 illegal gambling centers in the United States, London, and Russia, and they moved more than $150 million between multiple bank accounts, mainly in Panama, the United States, and the Bahamas.

While Michelle Lasso handled the financial part of Gurian's money laundering network, she also took care of the personal affairs of Panama's Vice President, Juan Carlos Varela, who today is the presidential candidate for the Panameñista political party, according to bank documents and official records.

The documentation reveals on March 14, 2011 Lasso contacted the headquarters of the yacht manufacturer Bertram Yacht Corporation in Florida in order to make the first payment for the yacht Varela was buying.

Lasso paid $175,000 with check number f011730055101 from one of her banking accounts at the Bank of America NA NY.

Precisely and according to the FBI investigations, several of Lasso's accounts seized by the US Department of Justice, because of their links to money laundering, were in the Bank of America.

Receipt No. 3615 also specifies the payment was directed towards a yacht, model 630, with hull number 5051, data matching the yacht "Centuria" acquired by Varela, in partnership with his brother the National Assembly Deputy Jose Luis Varela.

This payment reveals Varela was not only linked to Lasso through the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation, but also by direct payments from bank account linked to Gurian's illegal gambling network.

Earlier this year both Lasso and Gurian were sentenced in Federal Court in New York after being convicted of money laundering.

Lasso, after having cooperated with the investigation, received as a sentence of two years probation and was deported from the United States.

US federal authorities also seized Lasso's bank accounts containing more than 8 million dollars.

In August 2012, the Panama American newspaper was the first to publish an article about the yacht Varela purchased for $2.5 million, which he tried to hide through a company in the British Virgin Islands called Scorley Assets LTD.

But the records of a mortgage on the vessel with Tower Bank confirmed Varela and his brothers are the owners of the yacht "Centuria", which bears the same name as one of the rums produced by their company, Varela Hermanos S.A..

Documents Extracted

Jaime Lasso, the President of the Don James Foundation, tried to erase all evidence in 2012 that it was his daughter who made ​​the first payment for Varela's yacht.

On this date, Lasso went to the offices of Evermarine, the representative of Bertram in Panama, to request the file documenting the purchase of the "Centuria" but the documents were located in the files of the company's lawyers.

After that, Lasso managed to convince an Evermarine employee to get the file for the purchase of the yacht from the law firm, claiming he needed a copy.

The file was returned with only three pages.

This caused the administrators or Evermarine to fire the employee who helped Lasso extract the documents from the file on Varela's yacht, confirmed sources related to the topic.

Panama America requested an interview with the representatives of Evermarine, but they did not heed the request as the the deadline for this edition.

However, Lasso and Varela did not anticipate the receipt proving Michelle Lasso did in fact make the first payment for the luxury yacht would appear, while she was involved in money laundering.

The yacht is 67 feet (20.40 meters) long, 5.52 meters wide, weighing 45 tons and is built with a fiberglass hull. It has a market value of $2.5 million, according to records of the ship.

On August 9, 2011 just days before the breakup of the alliance between the Panameñista and Cambio Democratico political parties, Varela registered the contract for the purchase of the yacht in the Panama Public Registry, using a foreign company as a front.

The law firm Icaza, González-Ruiz y Alemán registered the yacht in Panama.

One of the law firm's directors, Álvaro Alemán, served as the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs while Varela was the Minister.

The notarized document revealed the company Evermarine Corp. of Belize sold the yacht named "Centuria" to a British Virgin Islands company named Scorley Assets LTD for one dollar, and "other considerations of value" that are not identified in the document.

The "Centuria" received its navigation permits on July 29, 2011 as a private pleasure yacht under the Panamanian flag, but under the classification of foreign service on behalf of the BVI company Scorley Assets LTD.

Consulates

This week, we also learned Alberto Arosemena, while he was the Panamanian Consul in Kobe, Japan diverted money to the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation and he identified at least three transfers to go towards payments identified as "boat" or "yacht."

Arosemena had transferred more than $150,000 to the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation, according to records found so far.

After that, it is possible the purchase of the "Centuria" also was done with money from the foundation chaired by Michelle Lasso's father, the gynecologist Jaime Lasso. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: The daily dribble of new information continues. Today we learn the first payment for Varela's yacht the "Centuria" was made by Michelle Lasso, possibly using funds generated by the illegal gambling activity in the United States. If that's the case, then the US Justice Department will almost certainly seize that yacht. Now, won't that be an interesting headline.

It's clear to me Martinelli put pressure on Evermarine in Panama, and that's how they got the documents they reveal in this article. And that means the US Justice Department was probably completely unaware that Michelle Lasso wrote a check for $175,000 from her Bank of America account to make the first payment for Varela's new yacht. That explains why the US authorities didn't seize the "Centuria" when they were seizing everything else. They didn't seize it, because they didn't know about it.

Well, guess what. They know now...

Stay tuned for the next installment of "How The Corrupt Third World Country Spins Thanks To Politicians Manipulating The Media." Wouldn't it be a hoot if the FBI seizes the "Centuria" tonight, before Varela can move it out of Miami? Because, after the publication of this article, they are probably gassing up the tanks and filling up the coolers on the boat with ice right now...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Michelle Lasso - Convicted And Deported From The United States

Corruption The Presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela has tried to minimize the involvement of Michelle Lasso in a case of money laundering in the United States, because she was the key figure in the financial part of the controversial Don James Foundation in Panama.

The Lasso family would have moved $27 million.

The Public Ministry might start an investigation.

Panama's Minister of Trade and Industry, Ricardo Quijano, said yesterday the Public Ministry should eventually launch an investigation into the alleged crimes against the public administration, and for having received funds from money laundering in the case aired by the Miami based Diario Las Americas against the Vice President and presidential candidate from the Panameñista political party, Juan Carlos Varela.

"The Public Ministry should conduct an investigation to see where the money came from, and to ask the Diario Las Americas where it got the information," said Quijano.

But the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño said while the Public Ministry received a criminal complaint on Monday in this case, they can only investigate in the first instance the former government officials who allegedly collaborated with the offense, while Varela should be investigated by the National Assembly, as established in Article 467 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Panama's Attorney General Ana Belfon also spoke about this case yesterday, and she said the Public Ministry does not have the power to investigate either the President or the Vice President, and she also confirmed they received a report from the Financial Analysis Unit.

The Miami based newspaper Diario Las Américas has reported the Don James Foundation was the head of a structure that allowed Varela to divert funds from two consulates he controlled while he was a part of the ruling alliance, in Kobe, Japan and in South Korea.

These funds also would have allowed him to finance part of his presidential campaign.

However, Varela did not anticipate that the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation would be mixed with money from an illegal activity in the United States.

For Varela the case does not merit importance because Lasso collaborated with the American justice system, ignoring the fact that she pleaded guilty to money laundering and that 8 million dollars was frozen in the bank accounts.

In the United States the case is being treated as as one of the strongest illegal Internet gambling organizations disrupted by the FBI in conjunction with the DEA.

Lasso pleased guilty in April, together with the leader of the network Phillip Gurian, before District Court Judge Mae D' Agostino, during the hearing.

According to the Times Union union newspaper, during the hearing where Lasso was ordered to be deported and sentenced to two years probation, Judge D' Agostino scoffed at the statement made by Lasso in which she claimed she was unaware of the severity of her crimes, saying she comes from a country where gambling is legal.

"You speak as someone who was naive and who really did not know what was going on, but I read the wiretaps. I have had the benefit of listening to you, when you did not know the police were listening. You telling me you did not understand what was happening, in my opinion, is just amazing," said D' Agostino.

During the legal process Lasso spent more than 12 months in prison in the United States along with 34 other people who were arrested for being part of this network of money laundering from illegal gambling.

According to the investigations, Lasso managed the bank accounts, credit cards, and made wire transfers for a global sports betting network operated by Phillip Gurian, 52, of Boca Raton, Florida, who pleaded guilty to money laundering.

Lasso, according to the Times Union, also known as Michelle Marie Lasso-Barraza, transferred money to Panama, Andorra, and the Cayman Islands, and created two fictional entities known as Nigel Holdings Inc. and Nigel Holdings S.A..

Hundreds of hours of telephone recordings were made, including conversations via Skype. In one of these conversations with Gurian, Lasso tried to move $4 million generated by a gambling website to a Panamanian bank. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: It's true that statements being made by Varela, Jaime Lasso, and others who are trying to defend the Panameñista candidate have adopted the line, saying "Michelle Lasso cooperated with the authorities, and the case is closed." End of story - and they don't want to say (or hear) another word about it.

However it seems clear that the Panamanian authorities are going to be investigating the money laundering activities of Michelle Lasso, as well as the money her father Jaime Lasso reportedly diverted from the Panamanian Consulate in South Korea - through the bank account of the Don James Foundation - money eventually used by the presidential candidate Juan Carlos Varela for this campaign and personal expenses.

I'd like to point out how incredibly stupid it was for Michelle Lasso to "mix" the two illegal activities. Of course we all know there is no judicial security in Panama. At the time when Varela was on top of the world as the newly elected Vice President and Foreign Minister, he probably felt untouchable. It's obvious they expected the bank accounts of the Don James Foundation to the the final resting place for the diverted and laundered money. And, they probably thought that no one would be investigating anything, ever. Times were good.

But a funny thing happened on the way to court. The FBI was listening to the telephone conversations of Michelle Lasso, as she coordinated the details of her illegal money laundering activities. Her statements in court - in which she said she supposedly didn't understand that what she was doing was illegal because she comes from a country where gambling is legal - are typical of the Panamanian elite. The US judge gave her a verbal bitch slap, probation, had her deported, and seized all of the money. So no, nobody bought the "I didn't know..." defense. Stupid.

Using the same bank account from the Don James Foundation to launder the illegal money from Internet gambling that was being used to divert money from the Consulates was also incredibly stupid. Now the Panamanian Attorney General, armed with the official reports from the Financial Analysis Unit, will be ripping through those accounts and banking activities with a vengeance. Lasso has said in public statements that all of those transactions were legitimate, none of the money was pubic funds, and that he did nothing wrong. I suspect he will have ample opportunities to repeat those statements to the detectives, investigators, and prosecutors as the investigation advances.

Varela himself is relatively protected, for now. As I mentioned in previous comments, he enjoys at least two different levels of protection. The National Assembly can open an official investigation into his activities, as the Vice President. As a presidential candidate he's protected by the Electoral Tribunal. But of course all of that changes after 1 July 2014 when Jose Domingo Arias is sworn in as the newly elected President of Panama. Ricardo Martinelli's wife Marta will be replacing Varela as the Vice President (won't that be an awkward photo op) and all of Varela's protections will evaporate in the hot Panamanian sun.

You can expect to see a lot more on this over the next ten or eleven days leading up to the election. The CD and the Panama America will be beating this drum as hard as they can.

Also, don't be at all surprised if the US Justice System eventually makes some kind of a move against the money that ended up in Panama from the illegal gambling activities. In the US, what they care most about is the money. If the Panamanian Financial Analysis Unit can demonstrate to the US authorities where the money actually went and how - then the US authorities might act on that information. What they care about is the money, and demonstrating to those who are involved in these sorts of activities that all of the proceeds - money, cars, houses, boats, planes, or what have you - will be seized. They have already seized businesses and properties in Panama related to this bust, like my favorite place to eat chicken wings and watch football the (former) VIP Sportsbook. Remember when "Big Mike" and "Wild Bill" got busted last year? This is basically the same bust.

Funny, I used to hang out there and bullshit with the President of the National Assembly Sergio Galvez, and the campaign manager for the Jose Domingo Arias campaign Jose Muñoz. Want to know what we talked about?

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

The Island Buyer And His Thorny Connections

CorruptionThe City Council of Taboga issued decision number 6, of March 14, 2014, which repealed agreements number 81, 82, and 83 of 2013, through which more than 78 hectares of land were sold to the businessman Ernesto Bósquez Ditrani, who has been linked to land speculators.

The repeal, a product of the demands being made by the residents of Taboga, takes effect as soon as it was adopted, but these lands are the property of the municipality and the council is empowered to dispose of them thanks to a resolution adopted by the National Authority of Land Management (ANATI), except for Tortolita island, because it is an inalienable property of the Panama Canal Authority.

Irregularities

The ANATI transferred the lands on the islands of Taboga, Taboguilla, Tortola, Tortolita and others to the Municipality of Taboga, after the Council "urgently" requested to expand their community land, in August of 2012.

They claimed "Taboga and Otoque will have population and housing growth demanding urgent action for land use planning..." according to Agreement 114.

However in practice, they were actually requesting the land in order to sell it to the businessman Ernesto Bósquez Ditrani.

José Chirú, the Mayor of Taboga, and Azael Ortiz, the President of the Municipal Council of Taboga, decided the fate of the land on the islands a month before it was handed over to them by the ANATI, without having the official appraisal in their hands.

According to the ANATI, they granted 418 land titles on the islands of Taboga and Otoque, however, after the transfer of the land, they have not issued title on any of the lands that were to be sold to Bósquez Ditrani, as provided in Agreement 114.

Bósquez Ditrani says he acted "lawfully" and the only thing he did was to ask for the lands and he proposed to the Councilmen the "idea" of an investment in tourism, something that was not even a project, as described by the Mayor to the people of Taboga.

The businessman said they did not give him a price, none was paid, and there is nothing in his name.

"They (the Councilmen) decided to write it that way. Excuse me, but I was not in agreement. I did not participate. I only made the request," he said.

In order to request land "you only say 'I'm interested in this piece here, more or less of this size. Period. There is nothing more," he said.

And when he was asked if any person presents an idea (to the Municipality) then they can give them one of the country's islands, he responded "Listen, maybe so. Why not?"

Lucky Circle

Bósquez Ditrani , a 42 year old developer, would have gone unnoticed if he had not directly obtained a part of four islands, simply by presenting an idea of what to do with them.

Bósquez Ditrani manages a circle of companies that are or were linked to a lawyer who created companies whose operations of land sales operations are being investigated by the Public Ministry.

It is the lawyer Evisilda Martinez.

Her office did operations of land sales - supposedly illegally - in inadjudicable wetlands inside of the Ngäbe - Buglé Comarca near the border with Costa Rica, which is now being investigated by the Public Ministry.

The company Semper Fidelis Development S.A. links Bósquez Ditrani with Evisilsa Martinez.

The first was the Treasurer of the company and the second, its founder.

Currently the company is chaired by William Bongiorno.

Martinez was also the legal representative, treasurer, and president of this company, along with her husband, the attorney Francisco Antonio Castillo (secretary), and both belong to the Martinez Law Firm, which she represents.

Besides Martinez and her husband, the lawyers José Rafael Reyes y Luis Martínez Pérez also worked as the lawyers for the company Semper Fidelis Development S.A..

Martínez Pérez is the resident agent of the company Goodfella's Panama S.A., the company name of a restaurant on whose board Bósquez Ditrani presides, with his friend Bongiorno as treasurer.

José Rafael Reyes is the attorney for the company Pan American Real Estate Group, S.A., which announced the sale of 31 hectares of land on Taboga for $8.1 million on its website.

Jason Meyers Harris - the former treasurer of this company - is listed on the website as one of the company's contacts to handle the sale of the land.

Meyers Harris was the treasurer of the company with which Martinez Evisilda processed the irregular sale of land in Ngäbe Bugle.

This newspaper (La Prensa) contacted the Pan American Real Estate Group, SA and asked for contacts for the sale of land in Taboga (including Meyers Harris) that appeared on the website, but the secretary said they had nothing to do with Pan American Real Estate Group, and that they had left on a trip.

On another occasion we again asked for the managers of the company.

Jorge Gonzalez Martínez - who identified himself as the company's secretary - replied in disgust: "We are not authorized to give you information about anything. You can write whatever you want."

We contacted Meyers Harris via email. Shortly after we sent him a questionnaire, the announcement of the sale of land in Taboga was removed from the website.

Luis Morales - who answered emails on behalf of Meyers Harris, acting as partner of the firm - said the contract for the sale of 31 hectares of land on Taboga for $8 million was being handled by another partner, but he had withdrawn from the company.

This newspaper contacted that partner and he said the land for sale in Taboga was not his, nor did he have anything to do with it.

Morales also denied a "direct " relationship between Meyers Harris and Bósquez Ditrani, but added any relationship he might have had with him or anyone else "is strictly business."

"About the possible link or connection between Meyers Harris and Bósquez Ditrani by the simple fact that the lawyer Evisilda Martínez has created companies for Mr. Meyers, does not give rise to a connection between them," said the spokesman for Meyers.

Although Bósquez Ditrani was the treasurer of the company Semper Fidelis Development, S.A. - founded by Evisilda Martínez - he kept his distance from her.

"I have no company with her, she is not my lawyer is not all. I know who she is, I have heard her name. But I don't have any relationship with this lady," he said, although he admitted that he knows her, as well as "many lawyers."

When asked about his involvement in Semper Fidelis Development he said "I'm on that Board (but) that does not mean that I own anything."

But Evisilda Martínez founded (the company) and served as its legal representative.

"As she has founded other (companies) for the group for which I work. I work for a group. I can be on many Board of Directors. But that does not mean I have a relationship with people at all. What's more, she founded these companies in 2007 and I started to be a part of this circle in 2010. We do not have any relationship with Evisilda and we do not want to work with her," he said.

In May 2011 Bósquez Ditrani replaced Alejandrina Arrocha Arcia as the Treasurer, when Esther De Frias was the President of Semper Fidelis Development.

Arrocha is the current treasurer of the Pan American Real Estate Group, and she was also a Director of other companies founded by Martinez Evisilda while the lawyer De Frias was a partner in the Martinez Law Firm.

Two weeks after talking to this newspaper, Bósquez Ditrani resigned from his position as the Treasurer and Director of Semper Fidelis Development, S.A., in which Evisilda Martínez - as has already said - was the founder, legal representative, treasurer, and president.

The lawyer Martinez and her husband Francisco Castillo also distanced themselves from Bósquez Ditrani, when they said they did not have and relationship with the businessman, nor any commercial interest in the lands of Taboga.

Since the Directors changed, "we stopped having any sort of relationship with these companies," said Castillo, while at the same time, he denied that the Martinez Law Firm processed the purchase of the land on Taboga for the Pan American Real Estate Group.

"Mr. Jason Harris is a Director of that company, but he has a law firm who attends to those cases," said Castillo.

Another controversial link of Bósquez Ditrani is with the American Brett Ragghianti, who has been reported before the National Council of Transparency against Corruption for allegedly having titled land in a dishonest manner.

Bósquez Ditrani and Ragghianti share the Director's position on the company Panama Land Futures Corp, S.A..

"I have not seen this man (Ragghianti) in eight years. I do not know where he is, and I do not have any business relationship with this man," said Bósquez Ditrani.

Although for the moment Bósquez Ditrani cannot buy the lands on the islands of Taboga, Taboguilla, Tórtola and Tortolita after the repeal of those agreements, the Councilors could process another sale to him or to other businessmen, because the ANATI generously answered their request for land on seven islands. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: OK, I know all of this is really hard to understand. And there's a reason for that. They want to try to make all of this as confusing as possible. You practically need a program to keep track of "who's who" in this whole thing.

But to me this case of characters reads like a list of "old home week." The really funny part about all if this, is that the power behind many of the land grabs - in Bocas del Toro anyway - is Martinelli's former Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu. Martinelli fired Jimmy Papadimitriu when he got caught (in a very public manner) trying to use the ANATI to steal public land in El Hombron and Paitilla. Big scandal, and as a result Jimmy got fired. You don't get to make the Boss look bad.

And I know Jimmy Papadimitriu was also behind the ANATI land snatch in both Chame and in Bocas del Toro.

So here's the really hilarious part. Jimmy Papadimitriu - after he was fired by Martinelli - is now working for the campaign of Juan Carlos Varela.

Juan Carlos Varela - the candidate of the Panameñista political party - is strongly supported by I. Roberto Eisenmann and the La Prensa newspaper, who literally hates Martinelli's guts.

La Prensa newspaper is barking up this tree, thinking they've got something on Martinelli, through the ANATI, somehow.

However, in fact if you chase this rabbit all the way down, kill it, and examine it's guts, La Prensa will finally figure out that they are - in fact - going after their own guy with this one. At this point they apparently have not got that fact figured out yet.

So therefore, you can expect La Prensa will drop this line of investigation like a hot rock, as soon as they figure it out. The ANATI is as corrupt as hell, no doubt about it. They've been handing out land like candy canes all over the place. These guys tried to make a snatch on Taboga, got caught, and pushed back. Oh well, on to bigger and better fish...

And for me, it's funny how the same old crew keeps coming back up like a bad burrito...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks