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Sunday, April 26 2015 @ 04:57 PM EDT

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Social Investment Fund Orders An Internal Audit

Corruption
Giacomo Tamburelli, the Director of the Social Investment Fund
Giacomo Tamburelli, the Director of the Social Investment Fund
By Luis Alberto Castillo C. for the Panama America - The Social Investment Fund (FIS) is performing an internal audit after alleged irregularities were detected, apparently involving several senior officials who work at the agency, official sources revealed yesterday. Panama America learned that a group of FIS officials allegedly charged bribes to entrepreneurs to accelerate the process of paying for supplies. The Comptroller General of the Republic confirmed the reports, but clarified that the audit was an internal initiative of the FIS. The Panama America has been trying since last Wednesday to obtain a statement from the Director of the FIS, Giacomo Tamburelli, on this situation, but he has not answered messages left on his cell phone nor other messages that were left for him.
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Former Education Minister Salvador Rodríguez Arrested in Corruption Case

Corruption
Former Education Minister Salvador Rodriguez Arrested on Corruption Related Charges
Former Education Minister Salvador Rodriguez Arrested on Corruption Related Charges
By JOSÉ OTERO and WILLIAM SALA for La Prensa - Yesterday morning Salvador Rodriguez was at home in Villa de las Fuentes when he was surprised by the arrival of police officers who had orders to bring the former Education Minister to the prosecutor's office, to answer the charges he faces for "crimes against the public administration." The arrest order was issued by Panama's Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor, Abril Arosemena, who is investigating irregularities in contracts made by the Ministry of Education to remove fiberglass insulation from several schools in the province of Colon for $96,000 dollars. Rodriguez, who has already been interrogated, is being held in the transitional cell of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ). Just last week Supreme Court magistrate Víctor Benavides rejected a preventative request for habeas corpus filed on Rodriguez's behalf, considering that for such an action to be valid an arrest warrant must have been issued, and at the time of the request no warrant had been issued. The former Minister's lawyer, Viktor Almengor, announced that on Monday he would present another request for habeas corpus, this time a "corrective" request. Rodriguez is the second Education Minister from the Torrijos administration who has been arrested for alleged embezzlement of funds in scandals related to the removal of fiberglass from schools. The first arrested was Belgis Castro who remains behind bars in the El Renacer prison. Rogelio Paredes, a National Assemblyman and a member of the National Executive Committed of the PRD, said that he "saw it coming" in reference to the arrest of Rodriguez, from the time when Castro was arrested last September. He added that everything is a show being conducted by President Ricardo Martinelli, to divert attention from the selection of the new Supreme Court judges, José Almengor y Alejandro Moncada, selections that have been criticized unions and civil society groups.
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Second VA Man Accused of Bribing Officials in Panama

CorruptionRICHMOND, Va. (AP) Another Virginian has been charged with bribing Panamanian government officials to obtain contracts for maintenance of lighthouses and buoys. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that 63-year-old John Warwick of Virginia Beach is charged with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Last month, 53-year-old Charles Jumet of Fluvanna County pleaded guilty to the same charge, and to making a false statement. He will be sentenced February 12. According to court documents, Warwick and Jumet were executives of a Virginia Beach engineering firm and a Panamanian subsidiary. They allegedly paid more than $200,000 in bribes to secure $18 million on maritime contracts between 1997 and 2000. Court papers did not show that Warwick has retained a lawyer. (Editor's Comment: And it gets deeper and deeper for former Panamanian president Ernesto Perez Balladares.)
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Morgan & Morgan Denies Claims Made by Ernesto Perez Balladares

Corruption By Neir Carrasco Kerekes for La Estrella - PANAMA - The law firm Morgan & Morgan issued a statement to clarify that they are not part of the legal team of ex president Ernesto Pérez Balladares. The clarification comes after a statement issued by the former president, where he says the firm represented the companies that participated in the concessions for casinos and slot machine rooms. "Our firm did not represent these companies in the procedures and processes that resulted in the concession signed with the Panamanian state," said Edward Morgan. The spokeswoman for the former president, Catia Rojas said that "in fact Perez Balladares has not been a customer of Morgan & Morgan because he is not a part, nor has he been a part, of either Cirsa or Lucky Games." Meanwhile, yesterday the controversy festered between Rogelio Cruz and Rigoberto González. (Editor's Comment: In Panama people often drop the name of one of the most respected law firms in Panama - Morgan & Morgan - in an attempt to lend credibility to whatever it is that they are doing. It's actually funny that Morgan & Morgan has now come out to wave the "BS" flag in response to statements made by Ernesto Perez Balladares. And, his spokesperson neglected to address the issue at hand in this article - that apparently Perez Balladares was lying when he mentioned the name of this law firm. Whatever. The wagons have been drawn into a circle, but the Indians aren't going away any time soon.)
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Arrest Order Issued for Former Panama City Municipal Engineer Jaime Salas

Corruption By JOSEPH OTERO for La Prensa - Panama's Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime ordered the National Police to find the former Municipal Engineer of Panama City, Jaime Salas, and to have him taken to the prosecutor's office, after formally charging him with illicit enrichment and money laundering, police said. Prosecutor José Ayú Prado ordered the National Police to arrest Salas and his wife Edilsa Rodríguez González in order to interrogate them. At press time the pair had not been located. Three other people who form part of the Board of Directors of one of the companies being investigated are also involved. Three were given a precautionary measure other than preventive detention. The investigation of Salas - who was part of the team of the former Mayor of Panama City, Juan Carlos Navarro from the PRD - was started last July, after the Financial Analysis Unit sent a report to the Attorney General's Office about suspicious movements in the bank accounts of the former municipal engineer. (more) (See Comments)
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Controversy Over "Double Endorsement" of Shelf Holding Checks at Banistmo

CorruptionBy Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - The financial mechanism whereby Lucky Games Ltd. sent funds to the company Shelf Holding Inc., which operated by former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares, has generated cross words between the former top executives of the now defunct Primer Banco del Istmo (Banistmo) and the official responsible for authorizing and performing the operation. Lucky SA Games did not issue the checks directly payable to Shelf Holding Inc., but rather the company wrote checks - payable for almost the exact amount for several months - payable to Banistmo, and later the bank endorsed and deposited those checks into an account held by Shelf Holding Inc. in the same bank. This practice, according to five bankers polled who declined to be identified, would serve to interrupt the "money trail" and to hide the origins of the funds. The procedure, according to bank records, was authorized and performed by Marta Arango who was at that time an official with Banistmo.

"These were checks made payable to Banistmo that must be deposited in bank accounts. There is no executive at any level who could approve that checks that had been written payable to Banistmo be later deposited into an account held by a third party," said yesterday the former general manager of Banistmo, Juan Carlos Fabrega. "Procedures prohibit this type of transaction at all levels," he added. According to Fabrega, the bank official who made the "dual endorsement" violated bank rules and Banistmo's procedures and what's more he went on to say that there would have had to have been authorization from superiors to do it.

However, yesterday Arango sent a statement to La Prensa in which she stated that her "actions were always taken with the consent of her superiors." "During my tenure as an official of this bank (Banistmo), it was never called to my attention that I acted outside of established procedures," she said.

The triangulation of money from Lucky Games S.A. to Shelf Holding Inc. is in the crosshairs of prosecutors since last September when they opened an investigation into the company controlled by the former president for money laundering.

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Belanger: Banistmo Did Not Authorize Dual Endorsement For Lucky Games Checks

Corruption By Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa -The former Executive Vice President of the Corporate Center of the Primer Banco del Istmo (Banistmo), Monty Belanger said this afternoon that the former financial institution "did not authorize" the double endorsement made by a bank official in order to deposit a check drawn by Lucky Games S.A. to the account of Shelf Holding Inc. The checks from Lucky Games S.A. were not written directly in the name of Shelf Holding Inc., but rather the gambling company issued checks - for almost exactly the same amount every month - to Banistmo, which were then endorsed by the bank and deposited into the account of Shelf Holding Inc. This interrupted the real "money trail". The procedure, which was authorized and carried out by Marta Arango who was then an official at Banistmo, "was highly irregular" said Belanger. "If someone made that kind of endorsement they did in on their own account in violation of banking rules," said the former vice president of Banistmo. (Editor's Comment: It keeps getting deeper and deeper for Ernesto Perez Balladares. He has fled Panama and he might never come back, unless he is arrested abroad and hauled back in chains. And who should be credited with taking him down? The government of Panama? Nope. The reporter who wrote this story, Santiago Fascetto, who has been on this like white on rice with no indication of slowing down. The more you dig, the deeper it gets.)
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Doens - "They Are Trying To Remove Immunity from Martin Torrijos"

Corruption Telemetro Reporta - PANAMA (AFP) The Panamanian opposition criticized the rightist government of Ricardo Martinelli after the Panamanian congress ratified Panama's departure from the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), stating this step is a "historical regression" in the process of integration of the isthmus. The Panamanian Congress, dominated by the ruling coalition, on Monday passed with 39 votes in favor and 14 against, a bill presented by Martinelli which repealed several laws and international agreements that formalized Panama's entry to the PARLACEN. Panama's unilateral withdrawal from the regional forum based on Martinelli's decision, which he accuses of being "expensive" and "inoperative", has been opposed by other Central American countries and is strongly disputed by the Panamanian (PRD) opposition. "What they are really seeking with Panama's departure from the PARLACEN is to remove the immunity from former president Martin Torrijos," the Secretary General of the Partido Democrático Revolucionario (PRD) Mitchell Doens told the AFP. Torrijos, who was Panama's president from 2004 to 2009 (PRD) joined the PARLACEN as a representative based on his right to do so as a former Panamanian leader, a right he would have had for five years, as do all former presidents and vice presidents of the other member countries. Martinelli, "under a cloak of fighting corruption, persecutes political opponents because he does not accept opposition," said Doens. Under the law passed by Panama's National Assembly, Panama will cease being a member of the Central American Parliament on 24 November 2010. "This is a historical regression" and "a thing so childish that it goes against understanding" because "Central America needs a place of understanding where all political forces can debate the region's problems," said Doens. (more) (See Comments)
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Vallarino - "I Skipped The Prosecutor's Summons On My Lawyer's Advice"

CorruptionPanama America - Panama City Mayor Bosco Vallarino said Monday he did not comply with the prosecutor's summons based on his lawyer's advice. "On Friday I told him to just let me work because it cannot be that every day there are statements in the press. I counseled with my lawyer and he recommended that we do things according to law." He added that his subordinate made the mistake that that he is not responsible. "I did nothing (wrong) and I'm confident," he added. Vallarino made his statements while on a visit to the seafood market. (Editor's Comment: This ongoing soap opera and investigations into the actions of Bosco Vallarino as the Mayor of Panama City should be contrasted against the complete and total lack of any kind of an investigation into the actions of Juan Carlos Navarro as the Mayor of Panama City for the past ten years. Another one of Panama's "open secrets" - anyone that wanted to get a license to open a bar or nightclub in Panama City had to pay a $25,000 dollar bribe for the license. How come no one is investigating that shit? The fact that Bosco's rookie staff slipped up and wrote a check to pay for travel expenses for his wife - a mistake that was caught before the money actually was paid by the way - is nothing in comparison to the big league crap that was being pulled by the PRD for ten solid years. The PRD wants Bosco out of office, and they are going to hound him until that happens.)
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Bosco Fails to Appear Before Anti Corruption Prosecutor

Corruption Panama America - Panama City Mayor Bosco Vallarino failed to appear before the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor's Office at 9:00 am this morning, where prosecutor Ramsés Barrera has press charges against him for "crimes against the public administration." Bosco was scheduled to appear at 9:00 am this morning, however the only person who appeared was Bosco's lawyer Cosme Moreno who delivered a written apology in representation of his client and asking for a postponement of the inquest. The lawyer said it was not until 5:00 pm on Friday afternoon that he was granted the legal power to represent his client in this case, and therefore he is unaware of the details of the case raised against his client. Therefore he went to the prosecutor's office today to hear the case and the charges made him the Mayor, but he was unable to gain full access to the document. Vallarino's defense reiterated that the Mayor is willing to go to the prosecutor's office when the authorities so request. Barrera pressed charges against the Mayor for "crimes against the public administration" in the case of the writing of a check for the amount of $4,000 dollars written to his wife, Anabel de Vallarino, for a trip to China.
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More Companies And Many More Millions to Ernesto Perez Balladares

Corruption By Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - Shelf Holding Inc., the company controlled by former Panamanian president Ernesto Pérez Balladares, received money directly from other companies besides Lucky Games Ltd., the company awarded a direct concession by the Perez Balladares administration to operate nine slot machine rooms in 1996. Shielded by a complicated structure of local corporations, and through a triangulation of money and funds, Shelf Holdings Inc. also received funds from gambling. A deeper investigation conducted by La Prensa reveals how other corporations - Joyas del Mundo S.A., Kestel Management Inc., and Pty Adventure Inc. - triangulated the funds coming out of Lucky Games Ltd. and Gaming & Services de Panama, both operated by the local subsidiary of the Spanish multinational CIRSA - to send money to a company controlled by the former president. CIRSA's General Manager in Panama, Helios Navarro, declined to answer questions from La Prensa about the new findings. Perez Balladares, who remains overseas and who has not set a date to return to the country, is now in the crosshairs of the Public Ministry. The Special Organized Crime Prosecutor under José Ayú Prado is investigating Shelf Holding Inc. and Pty Adventure Inc., for alleged money laundering. The triangulation of money from Lucky Games Ltd. and Gaming & Services de Panama - which included the rare "double endorsement" and the crossing of two accounts in local banks, would be added to the multi million dollar payments that have already been published. (Editor's Comment: I don't think Ernesto Perez Balladares will ever return to Panama. I think the word is out that prosecutor's have enough evidence to take him in, and that he's smart enough to stay away. Of course, this is just my personal opinion based on an analysis of what I see happening in the headlines.)
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Hugo Torrijos - "I Will Not Make A Statement Against Ernesto Perez Balladares"

Corruption By Julio Alfaro for La Estrella - Hugo Torrijos waited calmly in his office in Panama Maritime. He looked very sure of what he would say on the subject of the PECC investigation. Q: What do you have to say regarding having to go to the United States to make a statement in relation to an investigation involving former Panamanian president Ernesto Perez Balladares? A: It is completely untrue that I said I would testify against former president Perez Balladares. I have no idea if the United States has an interest in him, or if they have an interest in me. Q: Therefore, you don't know if there is any kind of an investigation open in this regard? A: I don't know if apart from the Americans who were mentioned in the PECC bribery case, if there is any ongoing investigation or one that will be opened against any Panamanian; in fact, the law that was cited as having been violated was the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which does not apply to foreigners, it only applies to Americans. Q: And do you know if there has been any kind of an investigation opened against any Panamanian related to this case in the United States? A: No, I reiterate that I do not have any way of knowing or to determine if they have opened or intend to open an investigation in this regard. (more) (See Comments)

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Panama City Mayor To Be Charged With Embezzlement

CorruptionBy Jose Otero for La Prensa - The Mayor of Panama City, Bosco Vallarino, will be investigated this week by the Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, for the alleged crime of embezzlement, in the case related to a check for $4,000 dollars issued in the name of his wife, Annabel, last August. Judicial sources said Vallarino refused to accept the notification of a subpoena to appear for questioning, refusing to receive the clerk from the prosecutor's office saying he was in an important meeting. Accordingly, the subpoena was delivered to Vallarino's private secretary. It was also reported that following the questioning, prosecutor Ramsés Barrera could order the Mayor's removal from office. This investigation was initiated after the Comptroller General rejected a check authorized by Vallarino for his wife to pay travel expenses for a trip to Taiwan last September. The Comptroller rejected the document because the recipient was not a public servant. La Prensa attempted to contract Vallarino via telephone but he did not answer the calls.
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Parlacen Members Oppose Panama's Departure (No Surprise There)

Corruption By Yureth Paredes for La Estrella - Deputies from the PARLACEN oppose Panama's departure from this Central American organization, among them Dorindo Cortez who said on Telemetro Reporta - "they say that the Parlacen only generates expenses, because nothing has been said of the fact that Panama has been enhanced with the integration of the countries Central America, with agreements with the European Union." Cortez added that no country that is part of an international treaty can leave that agreement based on the internal laws of the country, which is why she does not discard the possibility that Panama might be faced with a claim of unconstitutionality. Meanwhile, Panama's Vice President and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela said that Panama has spent more than $8.5 million dollars in just the past five years on the Parlacen, for salaries, allowances, and operating expenses. (Editor's Comment: The Parlacen was established partly as a place where former presidents of corrupt Central American countries could hide from prosecution in their home countries. All of the current sitting members of the Parlacen enjoy immunity from prosecution, and they all know that Panama's departure weakens the overall validity of the entire Parlacen concept. On this case, I agree completely with Martinelli. It's a complete and total waste of time and money. And, leaving the Parlacen is widely popular among the common Panamanian people, who have never received any benefit from the tax dollars spent there.)
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Municipality Report Delivered to Comptroller's Office

CorruptionBy Zelideth Cortez for La Critica - The Municipal Treasurer of Panama City, Hemerardo Martinez, delivered to the Comptroller of the Republic all of the documentation intended to support the contracts let as part of the Christmas Villages project. Panama City Mayor Bosco Vallarino did not respond to the summons issued by the Comptroller, but Martinez said he delivered a note of explanation. The Director of Tax Administration, María Olimpia de Obaldía, explained that during the past five years of the previous administration they let 285 direct contracts, and in the past two and a half years since the arrival of Carlos Vallarino as the Comptroller, they let 151 direct contracts. de Obaldia said the current administration is pleased with the presence of the auditors, but clarified that it would be good for the public to understand that when an administration is new, there are processes and purchases that cannot be made by following the procedures for a public bidding process because if they don't do it via direct contract it would not get done. Meanwhile, the director of Management Services, Abelardo Munoz, said that all formalities have been conducted with the participation of officials from the Comptroller's office, and he said the process is being done in a transparent manner, but he fears the Christmas celebrations of the Panamanian people might be endangered. (Editor's Comment: There is a big scandal brewing over money spent by Bosco Vallarino in the Mayor's office on the upcoming Christmas celebrations in Panama City. The task of organizing and executing the Christmas Parade has always fallen to the Mayor's office. This year Bosco Vallarino decided to put on "Christmas Villages" on the Cinta Costera (Balboa Ave expansion) instead, and the contracts they let to several companies to do the work and build the decorations or what have you are being audited.)
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Guy Fined $80 For Recording A Video Of A Street Fight On His Cell Phone in Panama

CorruptionTVN Noticias - The policemen who have been accused of abuse of authority for forbidding a citizen to record a fight between two women on his cell phone could be sanctioned by their higher authorities if it is determined they committed any violations of police regulations. The case was referred last Friday when Ricardo Flores recorded a street fight on his cell phone but he was stopped by police officers who said he could not record the scene because he was not a journalist. Flores was arrested and taken to night court where he was fined $80 dollars, and he later denounced on TVN News that he was never given a receipt for the alleged misconduct. (Editor's Comment: Click on this link to see the video of the cop making an ass of himself. He basically says "Who are you? Are you a journalist? This isn't some kind of "ringside" spectacle. Recording video on your cell phone is a crime, it's prohibited. Now sit there and you're going to see what happens to you when we take you in. You're not a reporter or a journalist so therefore you're not authorized to do that." Bullshit. This is exactly the kind of police abuse that has to be stopped. I get the "who the hell are you" crap from police officers all the time when I show up at a crime scene, and normally they shut the hell up once I identify myself, but in reality it's a public space and there are no laws against snapping photos or recording video anywhere in public, as far as I know.)
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David Murcia Will Show Incriminating Videos In Due Time (In The US)

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro Reporta - This, according to Carlos Pérez Herrera and Ronier Ortiz, lawyers who are working for David Murcia in Panama, who remains in jail in Colombia on charges of illegally raising funds and money laundering. According to Murcia's lawyers, his recently approved extradition to the U.S. represents the perfect opportunity to present all of the evidence he holds, including the videos of the meetings he held with several Panamanian politicians, an issue that generated controversy leading up to the elections of 3 May 2009. When questioned why Murcia did not simply turn over the videos from the start, they responded saying: "One does not fire at full blast, one has to fire slowly over time, said Ortiz, while Henderson said "what Murcia is going to do will be historical ... he will go there (to the United States) and turn over all of the information ... do you know how this will be handled in the United States?" (Editor's Comment: David Murcia had a "safe house" in Bogota where he had stashed large amounts of money and other valuables, as well as his "get out of jail free" evidence. He was a fanatic for recording everything three angles, video, audio, the works. Once he figured out that he was completely and totally screwed in Colombia, he turned all of that over to US authorities who spirited it out of Colombia in the middle of the night. They have had these videos already, and they got them a long time ago. Somebody say "cheese".)
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Prosecutor Might Toss Out Doens Case (For Being Bullshit)

Corruption By JOSEPH OTERO for La Prensa - So far, the allegations made by the the Secretary General of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Mitchell Doens, on alleged corruption in the current government are unfounded. Yesterday, Panama's Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, April Arosemena said she does not rule out the possibility of formally closing the file that was opened last week, after the public accusations made by the PRD leader. Arosemena said she has already taken the sworn statement from the businessman indicated by Doens - whose name has been reserved - as the person who told him that local entrepreneurs received political pressures in exchange for contracts with the state. The businessman, said the prosecutor, stated that he has not held any discussions with Doens on this topic, and that he has never received any pressure from the Government to maintain the contracts he has had with the state from the past 16 years. The prosecutor added that they also have been unable to prove any of the other allegations made by Doens over the alleged illegal extraction of sand. Consequently, she added, she does not rule out the closure of these files. Finally, the official explained that Doens cannot be cited for having made a false complaint or for having given false testimony, because the politician did not make his statements before a judicial authority, but rather on a television interview. The prosecutor was referring to the same television program in which Doens spoke about the existence of an alleged report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that established the relationship of current Cabinet members to cases of money laundering. This week, Doens was required to deliver the document, which turned out to be a simple copy without a signature of the person responsible or official seals. Representatives of the United States Embassy in Panama said they were unaware of the document.
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Panama's Comptroller Will Audit "Christmas Village"

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro - On Thursday afternoon the Comptroller General of the Republic, Carlos Vallarino, ordered an audit of the "Christmas Village" being organized by the Mayor of Panama City, Bosco Vallarino, as well as any other pending contracts that have been issued since 1 October 2009. The Mayor was notified through a letter of this order, which could also include the names of the officials that will be audited, as well as any testimony or inspections that might be required.
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Anti-Corruption Czar Denounces Irregularities in the MOP

Corruption Panama America - Panama's Anti Corruption Czar, Fernando Núñez Fábrega, denounced irregularities in the former administration of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) over the assignment of a contract for the rehabilitation of a road Puerto Lara, in Panama's Darien province, that was assigned to the companies Construcción Civiles Generales e Interventorías y Estudios Técnicos S.A.. Fabrega Núñez blamed the former National Director if Inspections of the MOP, Adriano Ferrer, for the irregularities. He added the work has not been completed, causing the $1.2 million dollar performance bond to expire. He said irregularities have occurred in other contracts awarded by the MOP causing damages to the state totaling more than $5 million dollars.
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Panama Will Seek Cooperation With The US on PECC Case

CorruptionBy Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro: The United States is investigating Ports Engineering & Consultants Ltd. (PECC) case, therefore cooperation will be sought, according to Ana Matilde Gomez, Panama's Attorney General. With this material the office of the Attorney General seeks to advance the investigations being made by Panama in connection to allegations against former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares and former officials of his Government.

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Attorney General Opens Investigation Into PECC Corruption Case

CorruptionBy SANTIAGO Fascetto for La Prensa - The Public Ministry opened an official investigation yesterday after the former president of the Ports Engineering & Consultants Corp. (PECC) Charles Jumet admitted before the justice system of the United States of having paid bribes in order to obtain a concession from the government in 1997, during the administration of Ernesto Pérez Balladares. Jumet testified before a U.S. judge that he paid bribes to three senior officials to obtain a contract with the now defunct National Port Authority (APN) to provide services to aid ship navigation. Following Jumet's revelations, the Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, under Abril Arosemena, opened a file to verify the possibility of the existence of "crimes against the public administration." This was announced by Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez. To move forward with the investigation, prosecutors will request international judicial assistance from the U.S. authorities. The prosecutor could even Even the prosecutor could travel to that country to meet with their colleagues who conducted the investigation there. Jumet's testimony points to three politicians to whom he paid bribes; Perez Balladares, Hugo Torrijos, and Ruben Reyna. The last two were the administrator and deputy administrator, respectively, of the NAPN when it signed the concession. The trio categorically rejected Jumet's confession. This will not be the first time Panamanian prosecutors and their US counterparts cooperate on the PECC case. On 19 March 2007 Gómez and her team of prosecutors began to cooperate with the investigation that was opened against PECC - in Virgina - for corrupt practices abroad. In April 2007, the First Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office sent four CDs with the contents of the case against PECC in Panama. He also referred, months later, additional documents on microfilm.
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Alberto Vallarino appears in supposed DEA documents

CorruptionBy Yureth Paredes for La Estrella - The Secretary General of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Mitchell Does, upon leaving the Public Ministry (MP) told the media that the documents he submitted to the Attorney General contain the name of Alberto Vallarino, who at the time was acting as the President of the Grupo Banistmo Capital, a bank that was being investigated for the crime of money laundering. Doens read a press release stating that the current Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, appears in the referenced report from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as the President of Banistmo. "Following the reading, it falls to the Public Prosecutor to conduct the investigation on the document and the legal and criminal responsibility arising," said Doens. The Secretary General of the PRD said the DEA report was sent to the offices of the PRD several weeks ago, and then later they made contact with Costa Rica and through open source information it became known that several of the banks mentioned in the report were closed by the authorities of that country and that some of those involved are in prison, paying for their offenses.

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Doens Amplifies Complaint Before Anti Corruption Prosecutor

CorruptionBy Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro - In view of the allegations made by Mitchell Doens, the Secretary General of the PRD, the 3rd Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office opened an official investigation. After presenting a DEA report, which mentions Grupo Banistmo Capital S.A., Doens made a sworn statement to the prosecutor to amplify his complaint. When the DEA report was issued, Banistmo was led by Alberto Vallarino, the Minister of Economy and Finance. The same DEA report also listed several banks in Costa Rica, which according to Doens were closed in the incident and there were several arrests.
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"PECC Was Created to Steal Taxes"

CorruptionBy SANTIAGO Fascetto for La Prensa - The former Comptroller Alvin Weeden said yesterday that the company Ports Engineering and Consultants Ltd. (ECCP) was created to "steal tax money" from the State. He accused, by first and last name, those politicians who benefited with the money generated by the company: Hugo Torrijos, Rubén Reyna and Ernesto Pérez Balladares. "The purpose [of PECC] was to steal tax money, they saw that it was generating $3 million dollars per year and operating expenses were only $400,000 per year. It was business," said the former official in conversation with La Prensa. In 1997 PECC signed a contract with the now defunct National Port Authority (APN) to assist in the navigation of ships arriving in Panamanian waters. Hugo Torrijos was the administrator of the APN, and Ruben Reyna was the deputy, during the administration of Perez Balladares. Weeden was tasked to carry out, in his position as the Comptroller General of the Republic, an investigation into the alleged damage to the State, which resulted in the exposure of the complex network of companies, businessmen, and politicians who were behind the PECC. "They were so cynical that they didn't even buy furniture or anything, they just used the furniture of the APN, and the Lighthouses and Buoys Section of the APN was passed to the PECC," he said. Now, the former President of PECC, Charles Jumet, confessed to the US Justice System that he paid bribes to Panamanian officials to finalize the agreement. Weeden said of the investigation in the U.S., that he collaborated with official of the justice system there, and even traveled to the United States to help investigators. In Panama, however, the court process was not successful even though, according Weeden - the respective justice systems of the two countries had the same documentation in the case.
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Former President of PECC Admits to Paying Bribes

CorruptionBy SANTIAGO Fascetto for La Prensa - The former president of Ports Engineering & Consultants Corp. (PECC), Charles Jumet, yesterday pleaded guilty before a U.S. judge of having bribed senior Panamanian officials to obtain a contract with the now defunct National Port Authority in 1997. According to court documents, Jumet was involved in a conspiracy to pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials for awarding PECC contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterway," said a statement released yesterday by the U.S. Justice Department. In 1997, during the administration of Ernesto Pérez Balladares (1994-1999), the National Port Authority gave PECC a direct concession to assist the navigation of ships arriving in Panamanian waters. At that moment, Hugo Torrijos held the position of Administrator and Rubén Reyna held the post of Deputy Administrator. The contract gave 90% of the business income to PECC, for a service that was previously in the hands of the state. In December 1997 the company paid dividends. One of the payments was for $18,000 dollars and was made with a cashier's check made out to bearer, that was later deposited into a bank account of Perez Balladares. The former president denied, in 2003, being a shareholder in PECC and he said the $18,000 dollars was a campaign donation from Jumet for his failed campaign for reelection.

Jumet, before U.S. justice authorities, admitted having lied at first to federal agents about the fate of those $18,000 dollars. According to the Justice Department statement, Jumet acknowledged he had misrepresented that the check for the dividend payment was a donation to the reelection campaign of a "former, high-ranking elected executive official."

According to the press release, Jumet admitted that the dividend payment check was given to the "former, high-ranking elected executive official" as a bribe to sign the contract with the Government. Jumet gave this statement to the judge in Richmond (Virginia) Dennis W. Dohnal, who was conducting an investigation into alleged illegal payments of PECC in Panama, in open violation of a U.S. law that prohibits US companies from paying bribes abroad.

PECC, a Panamanian corporation, was associated with Overman Associates, an engineering firm based in Virginia. "In connection with his guilty plea, Jumet admitted that from at least 1997 through approximately July 2003, he and others conspired to make corrupt payments totaling more than $200,000 to the former administrator and deputy administrator of Panama’s National Maritime Ports Authority and to a former, high-ranking elected executive official of the Republic of Panama," said the press release. The press release went on to say that as part of his plea agreement, Jumet has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice in its ongoing investigation.

La Prensa paper could not get a reaction from Perez Balladares, although he communicated with his spokeswoman, Catia Rojas. Reyna could not be reached, while Torrijos did speak. He said he always cooperated with the U.S. justice and that was the only official who appointed lawyers in the process four years ago. "I gave them plenty of documents," he said, adding he would not rule out traveling to the United States if requested by the judge.

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Virginia Resident Pleads Guilty to Bribing Panamanian Officials for Maritime Contract

Corruption US Justice Department - WASHINGTON – Charles Paul Edward Jumet of Fluvanna County, Va., pleaded guilty today in connection with his role in a conspiracy to pay bribes to Panamanian government officials to secure a maritime contract, announced Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil H. MacBride, Joseph Persichini Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Jennifer Smith Love, Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office and James A. Dinkins, Special Agent-in-Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Investigation, Washington. Jumet, 53, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal in Richmond, Va., to a two-count information charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC) in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); and making a false statement.

PECC, a company incorporated under the laws of Panama, was affiliated with Overman Associates, an engineering firm based in Virginia Beach, Va. According to Jumet’s plea, PECC was created so Jumet, Overman Associates and others could corruptly obtain a maritime contract from the Panamanian government.

According to court documents, Jumet was involved in a conspiracy to pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials for awarding PECC contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterway. In December 1997, the Panamanian government awarded PECC a no-bid, 20-year concession to perform these duties. In exchange for the concession, Jumet and others authorized corrupt payments to the Panamanian government officials.

In 2000, Panama’s Comptroller General’s Office suspended the contract while it investigated the government’s decision to award PECC a contract without soliciting any bids from other firms. In 2003, the Panama government resumed making payments to PECC.

In connection with his guilty plea, Jumet admitted that from at least 1997 through approximately July 2003, he and others conspired to make corrupt payments totaling more than $200,000 to the former administrator and deputy administrator of Panama’s National Maritime Ports Authority and to a former, high-ranking elected executive official of the Republic of Panama.

In his guilty plea, Jumet also admitted that he knowingly made a false statement to federal agents about a December 1997 "dividend" check payable to the bearer in the amount of $18,000, which was endorsed and deposited into an account belonging to the former, high-ranking elected executive official. Jumet admitted that he had falsely claimed that this "dividend" check was a donation for the high-ranking official’s re-election campaign. Jumet also admitted that the "dividend" check was in fact given to the former official as a corrupt payment for allowing PECC to receive the contract from the Panamanian government.

As part of his plea agreement, Jumet has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice in its ongoing investigation. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the scheme. The false statement count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 12, 2010.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rina Tucker Harris of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Dry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FBI’s Richmond Field Office and ICE’s Office of Investigation, Richmond and Washington.

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Va. man pleads guilty to Panama bribes

CorruptionRICHMOND, Va. - A Virginia man has pleaded guilty to bribing Panamanian government officials to obtain a contract for maintenance of lighthouses and buoys. Federal prosecutors said Friday that 53-year-old Charles Paul Edward Jumet of Fluvanna County pleaded guilty to conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials and making a false statement. Each count is punishable by five years in prison. Sentencing is Feb. 12. According to court documents, in 1997 Panama awarded a no-bid, 20-year contract to Ports Engineering Consultants Corp., which was affiliated with a Virginia Beach firm, Overman Associates. Jumet, an executive of the companies, admitted that he and others paid more than $200,000 in bribes to Panamanian officials to secure the contract. The other conspirators and the Panamanian officials were not named in court documents.
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Government Seizes Figali's Property on Ft. Amador For Failure To Pay Debt

Corruption El Siglo - The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) issued an order against the administration of the company Grupo F Internacional S.A. to seize property on Ft. Amador because the company has not complied with the agreement it signed with the Panamanian government. The order was issued by the Executing Judge of the Administrative Unit of Reverted Properties of the MEF, Raul Taboada, citing breach of payment for an agreement the government entered into with the company, and the presentation of a performance bond on which the project is developed in the area of Amador. The company Grupo F. Internacional S.A. signed a contract Number 372-01 which allowed for the leasing, development, and investment of the property, under which they promised to repay the outstanding balance owed to the government for Basic Income and Infrastructure - and to make those payments within 12 months for the outstanding rent and within 24 months for the infrastructure. Figali signed the commitment after the government came in person to the company and imposed and ultimatum. Alberto Vallarino, Minister of MEF, has stated repeatedly companies who do not pay their commitments cause a very large negative impact for the population and the people of Panama, because that money enables the State to develop the many projects they have planned, especially social projects.
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Business Directors Linked To "El Toro" Called to Testify

Corruption By Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - Six directors and officers of the company Shelf Holding Inc. and Pty Adventures Inc. have been called to make official statements starting tomorrow in the offices of Panama's Specialized Prosecutor Against Organized Crime. The prosecutor José Ayú Prado said in the investigations thus far the former president Ernesto Perez Balladares has not been called to make a statement. The prosecution is still waiting for a forensic audit report conducted by the Financial Investigation Section of the DIJ based on the unusual movements of money in three bank accounts detected by the Financial Analysis Unit. The investigation was based on companies linked to the former president which received funds from a company called Lucky Games, a company that in 1996, during the administration of Perez Balladares, received a concession to operate 500 slot machines. Thus far the office of Ayú Prado has conducted visual inspections in the Department of Revenue, Public Records, Social Security Fund, Civil Registry and Notaries. Recently, the 15th Judge Hilda Bonilla warned there could be a case of double jeopardy in the investigations being carried out by the Third Anticorruption Prosecutor and Ayu Prado, and requested that the two investigations be united. In any case, she said the charges for money laundering being investigated by the Anti Corruption Prosecutor should be declared null and the file closed, because in 1996 when the act occurred the criminal conduct - the laundering of money received from an irregularly awarded concession - was not properly regulated at that time and therefore she nullified the case and declared the case closed.
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