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Tuesday, September 16 2014 @ 11:25 AM EDT

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Chito Montenegro Files Complaint Against Judge

Corruption Panama America - The Secretary General of the Anti-Corruption Front, Enrique "Chito" Montenegro, presented Tuesday before the National Assembly a criminal complaint against Judge Jerónimo Mejía, for allegedly trafficking in influence. Montenegro says his complaint included evidence allegedly showing how Judge Mejia trafficked influences in the cases of Nelson Urrego, Alexander Ventura Nogueira, Grupo Motta, Samuel Lewis Navarro, René Luciani, Juan Carlos Tapia , and CEMIS, among others. According to Montenegro, Mejia's law firm continues to handle cases, through his wife and legal representative, and a group of lawyers who all have left the Public Ministry either as former prosecutors or superior prosecutors. "The Credentials Committee of the National Assembly should review this case and call Mejía to trial," said Montenegro, who reiterated that the evidence is overwhelming.
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Decision Expected Thursday in Corruption Case

Corruption TVN Noticias - Judge Victor Benavides said this Thursday we will know the fate of the former Education Minister Begis Castro when the full Supreme Court decides on the request of Habeas Corpus presented by his defense lawyers to have his arrest and subsequent detention declared illegal. Benavides said most of the judges will participate in the decision, and sources in the court indicate the draft decision could declare Castro's arrest to be legal, but to order a different interim measure, rather than detention. The Former Minister of Education has been detained for weeks on order of the Second Anti Corruption prosecutor who has pressed charges against him for embezzlement and ordered his arrest. Castro was hospitalized for seven days at the Social Security hospital, where doctors performed various examinations to determine his health condition with regards to hypertension and diabetes presented by the former Minister. All of this controversy and scandal surrounding the former Minister is the product of contracts let directly to companies to supposedly removed fiberglass insulation from schools in the eastern part of the Province of Panama and in Colon, but in some of these schools fiberglass never even existed.
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Government Denies Irregularity in Taxi Permit Scandal

CorruptionBy SHELMAR VÁSQUEZ SWEEN for La Prensa - It took the Executive Committee thirty six hours to determine that the 294 temporary operating permits for taxis, whose issuance had been described as irregular last Tuesday by the former director of the Ground Transit and Transportation Authority, Sandra Escorcia, to be in order. Presidential spokeswoman Judy Meana said all of the permissions were signed by the then Deputy Director of the ATTT, Roberto Moreno, arguing that he was temporarily placed in charge of this entity from 27 to 29 July. All of the permits were approved on 27 July, the first day Moreno took over the ATTT. After reporting the incident, Escorcia held a meeting with the Ministers of the Presidency and Government and Justice, during which she mentioned the existence of an audio recording proving how the permits were issued in an irregular manner.On the recording it was discovered how the transactions were accomplished in order to obtain the permits in exchange for a bribe ranging between $4,000 to $5,000 dollars. When asked about the issue, Escorcia said she has not had contact with the authorities. (See Comments)
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Giro Mingthoy Charged For Loss of Statues

Corruption By Luis Alberto Castillo C. for the Panama America - The Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office filed charges against the former administrator of the Parque Omar, Mingthoy Giro, in the case involving the disappearance of the bronze statues called “Los Juegos de Antaño” (The Games of Yesteryear). Giro, who was a close aide to the former first lady, Vivian de Torrijos, was summoned to be questioned at 9:00 am today. This is another investigation being conducted by the prosecutor's office, thanks to investigative work by the Panama America, which can now be added to the allegations of the theft of public funds from the FECE and the irregularities in the handling of the fiberglass school contracts. Information gathered by the Panama America detailed that the prosecution believed there were irregularities in the custody of the statues, which were in a storage facility in the Parque Omar. Carlos Carrillo, an attorney for Giro, said that his client will attend the interrogation. It should be noted that the initial investigation determined that when the statues disappeared, the locks protecting them had not been cut or broken, and the keys were in Giro's office. According to research conducted by the Panama America, the theft occurred in mid August 2008 and it was not until 11 September 2008 that the government of former President Torrijos file a complaint.
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Sandra Escorcia Resigns from ATTT in Taxi Permit Scandal

Corruption By SHELMAR VASQUEZ SWEEN for La Prensa - Sandra Escorcia resigned as general director of Panama's Ground Transit and Transportation Authority (ATTT) yesterday, through a telephone call placed to the Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu. The announcement came seconds after presidential spokeswoman, Judy Meana, said in a press conference that the Executive Transportation Committee - chaired by Papadimitriu - revoked the order that had been given by Escorcia to suspend the annulment process of the 200 temporary taxi permits, that had allegedly been issued irregularly. Asked about the issue, Escorcia said she was not able to any statements on this subject, but that today she would release a statement. Meanwhile, Meana explained that the Executive Transportation Commission considered it necessary that the legal team from the Ministry of Government and Justice investigate to determine if there were any acts of corruption in the issuance of the temporary taxi permits, as denounced by Escorcia, and who yesterday fired the ATTT Sub Director Roberto Moreno, for having committed a crime when signing the approvals for the permits without being authorized to do so. In this regard, La Prensa learned that as part of the materials uncovered in the investigations is a resolution issued on 22 July 2009 signed by Sandra Escorcia, through which she left Roberto Moreno in charge of the ATTT from 27 to 29 July 2009 because she was going on a trip. These dates can be compared to the dates when the temporary permits were signed, on 27 July 2009. The spokeswoman said President Ricardo Martinelli has requested the representatives of the different transportation unions 36 hours to investigate each case and to determine the legality or potential illegality of each one. His request was accepted by the transportation unions. (See Comments)
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Investigations Started Over Taxi Permit Scandal

Corruption By Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - Panama's Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor started an official investigation into the granting of 200 temporary taxi permits signed by the Deputy Director of the Ground Transportation and Transit Authority (ATTT), Roberto Moreno. A source confirmed the investitations were started in order to establish if there was any kind of an irregular, illegal, or corrupt act in the manner in which the permits were granted to operate taxis in Arraiján and Cocle. Roberto Moreno said yesterday on the program "Encontremos Soluciones" the permits in question were granted with the knowledge of ATTT Director Sandra Escorcia, because they were talking about this subject "during the months of the transition" (after the election but before the new administration took over on 1 July 2009.) The previous administration was going to issue (the permits), but in order to avoid arousing suspicions they decided to delay and wait until the new incoming government took over. Moreno said he signed the documents because traditionally the Assistant Director of ATTT is the person who typically handles the operational aspects of the institution, as such granting permits for taxis.
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AMP Seizes Six OPC Vessels For Safety Violations

CorruptionBy RAFAEL E. BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - The Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) confirmed yesterday that they have detained six ships owned by the company Ocean Pollution Control (OPC) due to technical deficiencies and expired navigation permits. The ships are part of the equipment used by OPC to control spills of pollutants in the territorial waters of Panama, a concession awarded directly to the company in 1997 (during the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares). AMP reports say the six detained ships are the only ones used by the company to conduct inspections of international vessels. Among the irregularities found on the vessels are a corroded oil system, oil leaks, loose deck flooring in the generator room, and a lack of firefighting equipment. La Prensa contacted the company's legal representative, Jose Maria Castillo, and its spokesman, Jose Miguel Guerra, but both refrained from commenting. This is the same company from which the Government last week seized the landfill in Colon, because they were building a terminal for maritime services without having a concession endorsed by the Comptroller.
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"Chito" Montenegro Says He Has More Corruption Cases To Report

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro Reporta - The Secretary of the National Anti-Corruption Front, Enrique "Chito" Montenegro, said the ATTT corruption case, where allegedly 200 taxi permits were issued irregularly, would not be the first corruption case of the current government. "I have in my possession more than five cases of acts of corruption which will reach president Martinelli, once he returns from his European tour," he said. When speaking on the theme of the ATTT scandal, Montenegro requested today that if the irregularities are proven, then the officials involved should be dismissed and the corresponding complaints should be presented before the Public Ministry for investigation. Montenegro said on RPC Radio the Director of the ATTT, Sandra Escorcia, should "submit this very week the dismissal of the officer as well as a formal complaint before the Public Ministry in order for him to be punished for not having complied with the law." (See Comments)
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Request for Habeas Corpus for Belgis Castro to Supreme Court This Thursday

Corruption Panama America - The writ of habeas corpus filed by defense attorneys on behalf of the former Minister of Education Belgis Castro could come before the full session of Panama's Supreme Court this Thursday, said magistrate Victor Benavides. Benavides said the decision taken on the draft decision that resolves the petition for habeas corpus must be supported by a simple majority of the Supreme Court justices, and in this case the approval of five of them will suffice. The judge added that requests for habeas corpus are always given priority in the full session of the Supreme Court. Former Education Minister Belgis Castro, who was arrested for the crime of embezzlement in a scandal involving the award of contracts for the removal of fiberglass insulation form schools in the province of Colon, is awaiting the decision of the Court. (See Comments)
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Taxi Permit Scandal First for Martinelli's Administration

Corruption By RAFAEL E. BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - It seems like Panama's Ground Transit and Transportation Authority (ATTT) will be the source of the first corruption scandal to taint the brand new government of Ricardo Martinelli. La Prensa has learn that about 200 temporary permits were granted to taxis without complying with all applicable procedures during the first four weeks of the current administration. All of these temporary operating permits are dated 27 July 2009 and were signed by the Deputy Director General of the ATTT, Roberto Moreno, who is a member of Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico political party. The certificates have been found so far have been distributed in Arraiján and in the province of Cocle. Other cases are being looked for in Chame. When La Prensa contacted the Director of the ATTT, Sandra Escorcia, she confirmed that she was aware of the situation, and she explained that the permits were granted without her authorization, which is why she has ordered an investigation. According to information held by authorities, each permit was granted after a payment of $4,500 dollars. One of the pieces of proof in evidence is an audio recording which details exactly how the transactions were done. La Prensa tried to obtain Moreno's version of the story, but last week the government official said he was about to leave on a vacation. (See Comments)
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A Primer on Panama's "Fiberglass Scandal"

Corruption By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - In the past few weeks the headlines have been full of stories about the arrest, investigation, and prosecution of several former government officials who used to work for the Ministry of Education. There are at least two ongoing investigations being conducted by different prosecutors. Thus far one former Minister of Education, Belgis Castro, has been arrested and he remains in custody. I though I would take a minute to give you a little background on the whole "fiberglass insulation" scam as it applies to the Panamanian public school system. A few years ago all of a sudden parents and teachers started complaining about "fiberglass contamination" in their schools. For some unknown reason, these people were apparently under the impression that fiberglass had some kind of potentially dangerous properties, such as asbestos. There were street protests and teachers at some schools went on public strikes, refusing to return to work until the "mess was cleaned up." The administration of Martin Torrijos rushed to approve massive new funding to "remove the fiberglass from the schools" and they began to let contracts to construction companies. Of course, what most of the Panamanian public didn't know at the time, is that fiberglass insulation is not at all dangerous and that this entire thing was created as a scam to steal millions of dollars from government coffers. (more)
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Ocean Pollution Control Was Not Authorized To Build Landfills

Corruption By Jessica Tason for La Critica - The company Ocean Pollution Control acted illegally because although they had a temporary permit to occupy an area of sea bottom and sea shore area, the permit expired in April of 2009 and in addition this permit did not allow them to build any kind of landfill or to do any construction work, reiterated Roberto Linares, the Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP). "The AMP acted responsibly and it maintains its decision to reclaim these illegal landfills as state property, because the relaxed practices of the past, with abuses of the resources owned by the people, are now over," he said. Meanwhile, Charlotte Mattos, the Legal Advisor of the AMP, said that OPC, although they knew their temporary permit expired in April 2009, continued to pay the monthly feel of $1,569.50, a payment that was received in an irregular manner by officials from the billing department of the AMP.
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Former Panama Education Minister Returned to Prison on Embezzlement Charges

CorruptionBy Jose Otero for La Prensa - The former education minister and current director of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) political party Belgis Castro was released by doctors from the Social Security hospital and returned to a jail cell in the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ). Castro was admitted to the hospital for a week, starting on 4 September 2009, by order of Supreme Court Judge Victor Benavides, as a requirement in order for him to decide on a petition of habeas corpus filed by lawyers for the former minister against the arrest warrant issued against him by the Second Anti Corruption prosecutor on 26 August 2009. The PRD leader has been formally charged with embezzlement for allegedly misusing a state fund to remove fiberglass insulation from the ceilings of ten schools in Chepo and Taboga. It was reported that after being evaluated for hypertension and diabetes by Social Security doctors, Castro was found to be in a stable health condition. Upon leaving the hospital Castro had no comment for the press. Meanwhile, Javier Carrillo, head of the National Police DIJ said Castro was returned to the institution yesterday at 2:00 pm and he was immediately taken to a solitary cell. Carrillo added Castro is receiving treatment equal to that of other detainees at the police station. Yesterday also finished the term of five days allocated by judge Benavides to the rest of the members of the Supreme Court, for them to make any remarks regarding the decision that is being circulated among the judges of the Supreme Court in the petition for habeas corpus filed on Castro's behalf. The results are as yet unknown. Meanwhile, the Eleventh Criminal Court granted the release - based on a $100,000 bail bond - to the former Ministry of Education employee Augusto Peñafiel, who was arrested on 3 September 2009 on orders from the Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor, as part of an investigation for the embezzlement of $96,000 dollars that was supposed to be spent to remove fiberglass insulation from 22 schools in the province of Colon.
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Belgis Castro Released from Hospital, Sent Back to Prison

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro Reporta - The former Education Minister Belgis Castro, who spent a week under detention in the Social Security Hospital at the order of Panama's Supreme Court, and who also has been charged with embezzlement of state funds, was discharged from the hospital today and returned to the Department of Judicial Investigation of the National Police. Upon his release from the hospital, Castro, who remains in police custody, avoided making any statements to the press. (See Comments)
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Panama Government Still Has Not Established Prices for Bern

Corruption By XENIA DE LEON for La Prensa - The Government still has not defined what it will charge the Miramar Development Corp. for the lands they have occupied as a concession, in various areas of the country. The Miramar Development Corp., chaired by Herman Bern, must pay for the grounds now occupied by the Hotel Miramar, which belong to the state. In addition, the government is examining the status of the concession of the land where the Gamboa Rainforest Resort hotel is located. Panama's Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, said there has been a delay in the process because at first the idea was to segregate the entire globe of land on which now stands the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and Villas, to assign a selling price. However the original analysis determined it was only possible to segregate the area where the villas are located, because they thought the rest of the land belonged to the Canal Authority. However, after several studies with the authorities involved in the issue, it was determined that all of the land can be segregated, except for the area where the tennis courts are located, which is considered to be an area susceptible to flooding. Now, with the matter clarified, Vallarino estimated the legal and financial proposal could be ready for the sale. The government initiative would also include the sale of land on Balboa Avenue. The company would pay at least $50 million dollars to purchase the land where the Miramar Hotel was built, which belongs to the state, excluding the use of the sea bottom. The land covers 16,900 square meters given in concession, where today there are a tennis court, swimming pool, lobby, a heliport and parking. (See Comments)
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Prison Guards, Fired Due To Escapes, Talk To Ombudsman

CorruptionBy Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Reporta - On Monday, the Minister of Interior and Justice, Jose Raul Mulino, issued the order to dismiss nine prison guards, allegedly for their links to recent escape from the La Joyita penitentiary. In reaction to the move, the guards approached the Ombudsman to request mediation in this process. Félix Berry, Claudino Sandoval and Alfonso Hernández are asking for clarification of the situation, because they did not even have access to the pavilion where the escape occurred. According to Hernandez, pavilions number 11, 12, 13, and 14 are maximum security, and they do not work in those areas, which are controlled by the National Police. In this regard, Monica Isabel Perez, the Deputy Ombudsman, confirmed that an investigation be initiated to determine whether the dismissals violated due process, because apparently the dismissed prison guards have not yet been property notified. (See Comments)
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Panama Government Takes Over Ocean Pollucion Control in Colon

Corruption By Elizabeth Garrido A. for La Prensa - "The landfill is illegal. There is a terminal for maritime services here that is illegal, and for that we must seize it." With these words, Panama's Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu, explained his presence at the landfill created by the Ocean Pollution Control (OPC) company in Colon for a maritime services terminal. Papadimitriu arrived at the scene this morning, accompanied by Panama's Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, and the Minister of Government and Justice, Jose Raul Mulino. He said the government decided to seize the reclaimed lands, acting on the orders of Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli. Then the minister began a tour of the area with the delegation accompanying him. There were staff members from the Presidency there, as well as other government officials. In the landfill area they installed a sign that says "Property of the State" as well as the Panamanian flag indicating the government intervention, as they have done previously in two other locations on the Amador Causeway. Government officials told reporters that the landfill created by OPC does not have a property granted concession, nor was it approved by the Comptroller General. OPC Defends Itself - While waiting for the government delegation, OPC representatives complained to television news reporters about what was happening in Colon. Jose Maria Castillo, the legal representative of the company, said on TVN News that OPC did everything based on established standards. In fact, the company pays a monthly fee of $1,500 dollars, said Jan Villarreal on Telemetro Reporta. (See Comments)
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Corruption in Panama Is An Obstacle To Doing Business

CorruptionBy ROBERTO GONZALEZ JIMENEZ for La Prensa - Corruption is the most problematic factor for doing business in Panama, according to Global Competitiveness Index published by the World Economic Forum. In presenting the report, the director of the National Competitiveness Center, Nicolas Ardito Barletta, said the effort to reduce or eliminate corruption must be a priority. On parameters such as "independence of the judiciary" or "reliability of police services," Panama drops to lowest scores allowed in the index, which evaluates 133 countries worldwide. Inefficient government bureaucracy, restrictive labor laws, inadequate education of the workforce and criminality are, according to the report, some of the major obstacles to doing business in the country.
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Panama's Corruption Czar Files An Ethics Complaint Against TVN News

Corruption TVN Noticias - Panama's Anti Corruption Czar filed a complaint against TVN News before the Ethics Committee, because he was annoyed that they have reported he is the cousin of the President. When he was appointed to the post, Fernando Nuñez Fabrega told TVN investigators that his condition as the cousin of the President would not prevent him from doing a good job as an anticorruption crusader. However, less than two months later, Nuñez Fabrega considered it "derogatory" to identify him as the cousin of the President, and thus filed a complaint against TVN News in the Ethics Committee of journalism. The Ombudsman said the role of the media is necessary to identify such relationships. Nuñez Fabrega also said it was immoral that part of his interview from this morning has been repeated by other news outlets. Publicizing the family relationships of public officials and following up on the statements they make in the different news media outlets is and example of the exercise of sound ethical principles. (See Comments)
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Panama's Anti Corruption Czar Calls For Halt To PARLACEN Tax Exonerations

Corruption La Prensa - Panama's Anti Corruption Czar, Fernando Nunez Fabrega, today asked for the immediate suspension of all procedures for the exemptions of import taxes for cars enjoyed by the Panamanian deputies to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN). Nunez Fabrega said this request applies to all requests currently being processed, as well as any that might be submitted in the future. The anti-corruption czar also ordered an investigation into the allegations he submitted today to the media, and further requested that the amount of damage done to the Panamanian state thanks to the privilege enjoyed by members of Parlacen be quantified. Nunez Fabrega justified this measure, based on a legal misinterpretation that was made in order to give this benefit to the Panamanians who are members of the PARLACEN. His remarks came at a news conference he called at the offices of the Secretariat of Transparency, located in Ancon.
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Ernesto Perez Balladares Controlled The Checkbook For Shelf Holding Inc.

Corruption By Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - Although former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares said yesterday he is not the owner of Shelf Holding Inc., the corporation that consistently received sums of money from Lucky Games Ltd., bank records show exactly the opposite: the former head of state was the one who managed the millions of dollars in the bank account Shelf Holding Inc. opened in the Banco Panameño de la Vivienda (Banvivienda). He dispatched checks from his office, written with his own hand, to a wide range of collaborators, politicians, family members, and companies. This account was even used to make political donations to the presidential campaign of Juan Carlos Navarro during the primary campaign for the Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD). There is also another check for "political support" written to another leader of that organization, Aldo López Tirone. "The fact that you sign checks from the checking account of a corporation does not automatically make you the owner of that corporation," said Perez Balladares in his defense. "I am not the owner of Shelf Holding," he added. "Now, why Shelf Holding received [the money] is an internal affair of my family that I need not disclose", he said yesterday in an interview with Channel 4. La Prensa had access to these banking documents - provided by exceptionally credible sources - that seem to contradict the statements of Ernesto Perez Balladares.
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Prosecutor Asks For Information From U.S. Consulate (Again)

CorruptionBy Jose Otero for La Prensa - The office of Panama's Special Organized Crime Prosecutor is waiting for the Consulate of the Embassy of the United States in Panama to deliver a list of the people who are working as staff members of this office, as part of an investigation being conducted into an international criminal network who falsified Panamanian identity documents to illegally enter the United States. Sources connected to this case report the request has been made on two occasions through official diplomatic channels, but thus far not response has been forthcoming from the US Consulate. The investigations have revealed this criminal group falsified identification cards and Panamanian passports using the identities of Panamanian officials who work for the Panama Canal Authority, and these documents where then used to fraudulently obtain visas to illegally enter into the United States. In this case there are nineteen defendants, including former employees from several governmental agencies in Panama.
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Comptroller Stopped Payment On Check To Bosco's Wife

CorruptionBy Carlos Anel Cordero y Ereida Prieto-Barreiro for the Panama America - The check written to the wife of Panama City Mayor Bosco Vallarino issued by the Municipality of Panama was rejected by the Comptroller and was not annulled by the Mayor, when he supposedly discovered that he had made a "mistake." Of the three different versions given by Mayor Vallarino on Thursday to explain the $4,000 dollar check written to Annabel de Vallarino for a trip to Taiwan, yesterday was added the version of the Comptroller, who said the check was not approved because the beneficiary is not a public official. This version contrasts with a press release issued by the Mayor on Thursday, which said the check was written due to an "administrative mistake", and "the error was substanciated and the officials were sanctioned." However, Fabio Pino, director of Information for the Comptroller, said the Office of Internal Audits (OIA), assigned to the Mayor's Office, "returned" check number 50132 without endorsement upon confirming that Annabel de Vallarino is not a public official. He confirmed that the check complied with all required procedures, but once it was returned by the comptroller it lost all value. Current laws dictate that government institutions cannot pay travel expenses of people who do not work in the public sector. (more)
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Panama Supreme Court Judge Orders Former Minister Hospitalized

Corruption By Jose Otero for La Prensa - Because the health complications he faces, former Education Minister Belgis Castro was hospitalized yesterday on orders of Supreme Court Judge Victor Benavides. A press release from the Gil Ponce Palace of Justice said this decision was based on the recommendations of the doctors in the Office of Social Security hospital who evaluated Castro on 2 September 2009. The doctors recommended Castro be hospitalized to "offset diabetes and correct hypertriglyceridemia for the risk of acute pancreatitis" from which Castro suffers. Put another way, the former minister seems to be suffering from a diabetes crisis and has high levels of blood fat. Castro will remain hospitalized seven days, during which time he will be guarded by the Judicial Investigation Department (DIJ). This decision does not constitute a finding of habeas corpus that was brought by Castro's lawyers against the order for his arrest issued by the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor. (Editor's Comment: Hospitalizing Castro under strict supervision for seven days will allow the CSS doctors to monitor his food intake and repeat blood tests when they know he has not done anything that could possibly alter the results. Everyone knows he's trying to play the healthcare card in order to avoid being hospitalized, so it's just a matter of cleaning him out and running the tests again.)
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Two More Arrested in Growing Corruption Scandal

Corruption By Víctor A. Santos J. for El Siglo - More people are now involved in the fiberglass scandal. Two former Ministry of Education officials, after being interrogated by the Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor, where arrested on Wednesday after being indicted for the alleged crime of embezzlement in the scandal over the removal of fiberglass from schools. Cesar Cordero, the former National Director of Architecture and Engineering during the administration of Belgis Castro, was the first to be interrogated, but he did not meet the same fate as former Education Minister Salvador Rodriguez, who managed to avoid being arrested. The other person involved, Augusto Penafiel, served as the Director of Inspection at the Regional Directorate of the MEDUCA in Colon. Upon completing his statement, he was notified by the Prosecutor, Yolanda Austin, that he would be arrested and he was taken to the jail cells of the DIJ. The two men were detained overnight, but they were not held in an office like their former boss Belgis Castro, but rather they shared the cell with the rest of the detainees. The two former education officials explained to Austin, the irregularities found in 22 schools in the province, where reality does not correlate to the work that was supposedly done, causing damages to the sate for $96,000 dollars. This investigation has been going on for only one week, but so far five people have been identified between government officials and private individuals. It has been learned that the modus operandi of the former officials has been repeated in the six investigations being carried out by the Anti Corruption Prosecutor, also with the companies that won the public bids that were convened at the time by MEDUCA. In the coming days Glenis Garcia is also expected to appear, who also faces charges of embezzlement. FIBERGLASS - Involved - Tow former ministers, former MEDUCA officials and private individuals. Damages to the state in the regions of Colon and the Eastern part of the Province of Panama are more than $230 million dollars, without including the provinces of Chiriquí, Coclé, Panamá Oeste y San Miguelito.
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Sixteen Customs Officials Fired From Tocumen Airport

Corruption By: Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Reporta - The officials all work in the customs department of the International Airport. As planned, on Friday afternoon more than a dozen customs officials who used to work at the Tocumen International Airport were fired. Several days ago the Director of Customs, Gloria Moreno de Lopez, said on the morning edition of Telemetro Reporta that they had already identified several customs officers who had participated in acts of corruption. In total, sixteen customs officials will be replaced, said Lopez Moreno upon her arrival at the airport terminal. (Editor's Comment - The house cleaning continues...)
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Martinelli Evaluates Asking For Vice Minister's Resignation

CorruptionBy EDUARDO MENDOZA for La Prensa - Panama's Vice Minister of Government and Justice, Alejandro Garuz, is under the scrutiny of President Ricardo Martinelli. Martinelli confirmed this yesterday after a series of reports published in La Prensa revealed Garuz received payments from a slot machine business through a company called Horamar Finances Corp. Faced with questions from journalists about the the possibilities of Garuz staying in office, Martinelli said, "If Mr. Garuz, is involved, one way or the other, we'll have to ask for his resignation." The voice mail box on Garuz's cell phone was full and he could not be reached for comment. However, following the publication of reports, Garuz claimed to have received money from Horamar for consultation services. He also claimed that he resigned from that position on 14 June 2009, two weeks before assuming the position of Vice Minister of Government and Justice. Panama's Minister of Government and Justice Jose Raul Mulino had no comment.
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Belgis Castro Says He's A "Political Prisoner"

Corruption TVN Noticias - Former Education Minister Belgis Castro took advantage of the opportunity while he was being transferred to the Social Security hospital to say he was being held as a "political prisoner" with regards to the investigations being conducted against him. Castro, who claims to have health problems, was taken to the medical facilities to undergo several tests, but despite the fact that he was being guarded by two police officers managed to make his "political prisoner" claims heard. The former Education Minister is being held under arrest after the Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor, Yolanda Austin, interrogated him last week, and how he is waiting for the decision of Supreme Court magistrate Victor Benavides, who has to decide a request for habeas corpus filed by his lawyers on his behalf. Castro will remain in custody until judge Benavides makes his decision.
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Labor Minister Files Corruption Complaint With Public Ministry

CorruptionPanama America - Panama's Labor Minister, Alma Cortes, presented on Wednesday before the Public Prosecutor a complaint for crimes against the administration and public faith, which involves officials from the past administration of Martin Torrijos. Cortes said that during an evaluation they discovered that software contracted for the information system to create a job bank, for which the Ministry paid $156,000 dollars, was never installed. "The most worrying thing is that the service contracted in October 2008 was paid for through a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)," she said. What's more, the contract was given to two different companies to perform the same work, and according to Cortes, was signed by the former Minister of Labor Edwin Salamin, the former Director of Planning, and the former Director of Information Ramon Nieto. (Editor's Comment: Does anyone else need a scorecard to keep track of all of these corruption complaints?)
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Anti Corruption Prosecutor Opens Investigation Into Colon Free Zone Bribes Scandal

CorruptionLa Critica - A source confirmed the First Anti Corruption Prosecutor's Office launched an official investigation into the denunciation of alleged payments of bribes in the Colon Free Zone, made by the President, Ricardo Martinelli. The prosecution does not rule out requesting the video where the president made the claim in a television program, nor taking an official statement from the President through a legal certification. With the investigations he seeks to clarify whether or not bribes were paid in the Colon Free Zone.
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