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Monday, December 22 2014 @ 04:17 PM EST

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Investigations of Ernesto Perez Balladares Continue

CorruptionBy SANTIAGO Fascetto for La Prensa - The judge of the Panama's Ninth Criminal Circuit Court, Annabella Jimenez, denied yesterday a request to halt the investigation into suspected money laundering which is being conducted by the Special Organized Crime Prosecutor Jose Ayú Prado into the companies Pty Adventures Inc. and Shelf Holding Inc., the latter controlled by former president Ernesto Pérez Balladares. In other words: Jiménez authorized the Attorney General to continue with the investigation. Shelf Holding Inc., which moved several million dollars through the local banking system in recent years, received money steadily from Lucky Games Ltd., a company that benefited from a direct concession to operate slot machine facilities granted by the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares in 1996, as revealed by a series of reports published in La Prensa starting on 3 August 2009. The request to halt the investigation which was rejected by the deputy judge, was presented by Jose Maria Castillo, acting as a lawyer for the company Pty Adventures Inc. "What the judge has done is to decide that our request for invalidity is not appropriate," said Castillo, who contacted La Prensa after we requested a reaction from the spokeswoman for Perez Balladares, Catia Rojas. Castillo added that the judge recommended that the two cases that have been opened against the former president in the Public Ministry should be combined. "It is a guarantee (protection) that goes back 500 years, all the way to Cain," he added. The lawyer means that, besides the investigation into money laundering, the Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor is investigating Perez Balladares for supposed offenses against the public administration. In this case, another deputy judge, Hilda Bonilla - who is in charge of the 15th Criminal Court - decreed the end to the criminal proceedings and closed the case. But in the case being investigated by Ayú Prado, Jimenez's ruling supports the investigation of money laundering, although the defense may appeal this decision to the Second Superior Tribunal. Perez Balladares is currently in Europe, said his spokeswoman, adding that the former president could return home in late November or early December.
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Posse: Minister tried to blackmail me

Corruption By Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro - Luis Alejandro Posse shows a document underpinning several of his claims. The former manager of the Agricultural Development Bank, Luis Alejandro Posse, has launched a campaign to clear his name after being dismissed by the Minister of Agricultural Development, Victor Manuel Perez. Posse is being accused of giving a farm in the province of Chiriqui to an alleged fellow party member. Posse, however, denies that claim. During the morning newscast on Telemetro Reporta, Luis Alejandro Posse said the minister tried to blackmail him to resign and even threatened him. According to Posse's account, Victor Manuel Perez forced him to submit his resignation for having committed acts of corruption, and when Posse did not present his resignation he was fired. Posse is requesting that the Anti Corruption Secretary and the Attorney General's Office investigate the situation, as well as mismanagement on the part of the Minister, which he sustained with several supporting documents. The former manager of the Agricultural Development Bank had admitted there were several disagreements with Perez, which might have been due to jealousy the Minister felt for him due to his good relationship with the agricultural sector of Panama.
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David Murcia Files New Complaint Filed Against Ana Matilde Gomez

Corruption By Jose Otero for La Prensa - A new criminal complaint against Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez will be presented before the Supreme Court, this time for the alleged commission of the offenses of theft of public documents and corruption of a public official. This, according to one of the lawyers defending Colombian David Murcia Guzmán, who was arrested in Panama in November 2008 and convicted in Colombia for massive fraud and the illegal collection of money. Ortiz explained that the complaint is also directed against the assistant prosecutor, Luis Martinez, the former Secretary General of the Public Ministry Rigoberto Gonzalez, the former head of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) José Ayú Prado; the Fourteenth Criminal Prosecutor, William Parodi, and the former director of Immigration Clovis Sinisterra. The lawsuit is based on the alleged concealment of 87 pages of the record of the capture of Murcia, which occurred on 19 November 2009. The lawyer says that in the file only two reports appear regarding Murica's arrest and capture that are numbered 88 and 89, and that the rest of the pages have disappeared. Ortiz said the officials lied when they stated Murcia was deported following legal procedures, because he was never taken to immigration after his capture. This is the complaint filed against Gomez, who also has another open procedure for abuse of authority.
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Posse Says He Will Not Remain Silent

Corruption Panama America - Alejandro Posse, the former manager of the Agricultural Development Bank who was fired last night by President Ricardo Martinelli, said he did not commit any act of corruption and that he will not remain silent as he did during the administration of Mireya Moscoso. Posse, who has been notified of his dismissal, explained that his presence in the National Assembly was to notify the Panameñista lawmakers of his position regarding the accusations being made against him for the supposed "irregularities" in an administration contract for a farm in the Chiriqui Province. The former official said that on Monday he will present the documentation that will serve to boost confidence in his actions, and that he would also explain to the country what he has already explained to the lawmakers of his party.
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Use of Tocumen Airport Funds Will Be Investigated

CorruptionBy RAFAEL E. BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - The manager of Tocumen S.A., Rafael Flores, confirmed they are investigating the "advanced and irregular" use of $173 million dollars by the past administration, money the company received for the award of the duty free area of the main passenger terminal. Tocumen SA is currently facing a difficult financial situation as a result of extraordinary expenditures, as well as an unpaid debt of $54 million dollars in income taxes. The funds were used to cover shortfalls in institutions and as donations to community boards this year before the elections. The fee to use the airport will be $40 dollars starting next year. As of 1 January 2010, the airport usage tax for international passenger service will increase from $20 to $40 dollars. This increase was implemented because the Board of Directors of the Civil Aviation Authority, chaired by the Minister of Government and Justice Jose Raul Mulino, said the government has invested $100 million dollars to modernize the Tocumen International Airport to the benefit of the passengers who use the terminal area. This tax increase, which was published in the Official Gazette on Monday, maintains the existing 50% discount to retirees. In January 1993, the cost of that fee went from $10 to $20. LEONARDO FLORES.
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Martinelli Fires BDA Bank Manager Alejandro Posse

CorruptionTVN Noticias - The Manager of the Agricultural Development Bank, Alejandro Posse, has been removed from office. The Secretary of State Communications reported tonight that the President of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli, removed Posse from office, for irregularities in the designation of a farm. which should have been evaluated and approved by the Agricultural Research Institute, IDIAP, but the bank manager assigned it to an individual. Alejandro Posse is a member of the Panameñista party and was the Minister of Agricultural Development under President Mireya Moscoso. He was also a former candidate for vice president in 2004. In his place will be assigned the sub manager Rigoberto Amaya.
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"The Public Ministry Has Not Told The Truth" - Sitton

CorruptionBy Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Reporta - The case of Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez has become the point of discussion in several areas, especially politics and the judiciary. Lawyer Sidney Sitton believes the Public Ministry failed to tell the truth, when ordering an intervention and an undercover operation to film and record the private communications of the former prosecutor Arquímedes Saéz. Meanwhile lawyer Silvio Guerra says Ana Matilde Gomez can only be removed from her position on an order from the Supreme Court.
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Judge Denies Bail for Former Minister Belgis Castro

CorruptionBy Jose Otero for La Prensa - Deputy circuit judge Maria Romero rejected a request for bail submitted by lawyers on behalf of former education minister Belgis Castro. Consequently, Castro will remain confined in the El Renacer prison, where he was taken on 12 October 2009 for having violated house arrest imposed by the Supreme Court. The former minister is accused of embezzlement in a case involving the removal of fiberglass insulation from public schools.
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Asking $32 Million for Company Linked To Corruption Investigation

CorruptionBy SANTIAGO Fascetto for La Prensa - The Spanish multinational company CIRSA agreed to pay two supposed shareholders in the gaming companies Lucky Games S.A. and Gaming & Services de Panama, $32 million dollars for their parts of the package of shares or ownership of these companies. The recipients of the money for this sale are Roosevelt Lito Thayer and Enrique Pretelt, the first a friend and the second the son in law of former Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares. The agreement between the Panamanians and the Spanish company closed a week ago, although the Gaming Control Board (JCJ) warned it would not approve the transaction. "We do not accept the agreement because we believe it's a lot of money, taking into account that it was a contract given directly to and in benefit of the two associates of then-President Ernesto Pérez Balladares, the Executive Secretary of the JCJ, Giselle Brea, told this newspaper yesterday. The government forced CIRSA to terminate their relationship with the two associates of Ernesto Perez Balladares as part of a deal that included the closure of some gaming rooms and increasing taxes. CIRSA, which manages in Panama more than 20 slot machine rooms, agreed to pay $32 million dollars to Thayer and Pretelt for all of the shares of Lucky Games Ltd. and a minority stake in Gaming & Services de Panama. The agreement, according to sources familiar with negotiations, provided for the payment of $4 million dollars per year over eight years. (See Comments)
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Still Investigating Ernesto Perez Balladares for Money Laundering

CorruptionTVN Noticias - Panama's Special Prosecutor Against Organized Crime continues to work to determine if the alleged crime of money laundering is linked to the former president Ernesto Perez Balladares. Although the former president's lawyers filed a request before the 9th Court requesting that the investigation be closed, organized crime prosecutor Jose Ayú Prado said the investigations must continue because there is sufficient evidence to determine that money laundering did occur, but that so far no one has been indicted. The prosecutor is still waiting for a final report from the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), a unit that analyzes the movements of money through the bank accounts of the companies linked to the former president, specifically Shelf Holding Company Inc. At the time, the former president described the investigation as "absurd."
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MEF Files Criminal Complaint For Illegal Dumping

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro - MEF officials say the damage is much larger than originally thought, because the pollution has been seeping in the surrounding areas. A criminal complaint for crimes against the environment and the usurpation of public property was filed by the Administrative Unit of Reverted Property of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, in the case of contamination in Corozal. According to the MEF, the body responsible for administering the State-owned land, the damage could reach $10 million dollars, taking into account the value of the land. It is located on parcels A, C and adjoining easements, covering five hectares. According to a report of UABR, contamination has occurred "continuously".
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Report Puts Attorney General's Position At Risk

Corruption By Juan Manuel Díaz C. for the Panama America - Panama's Attorney General, Ana Matilde Gomez, runs the risk of being removed from office, thanks to a complaint filed against her by former prosecutor Arquímedes Sáez, said former Supreme Court Magistrate Edgardo Molino Mola. According to Mola, Article 2466 of the Judicial Code states that when the crime carries with it possible imprisonment then the civil servant may be removed from office, as is the case with the complaint filed by Sáez. However, Mola said the chances of this happening are remote because it would be necessary to prove Gomez acted acted willfully when ordering the wiretapping. "Unconstitutional acts are not defined as a crime under the Penal Code," he said. However, he said it will be necessary to wait to see what the Prosecutor in Charge of Administration, Nelson Rojas, decides to do. Meanwhile, the former prosecutor Archimedes Sáez explained that after his complaint was admitted by the Prosecutor for Administration, the procedure would be to call Attorney General Gomez in to be interrogated. Yesterday it was learned the Attorney General filed a notice detailing a series of irregularities in the admission of the complaint filed against her. (See Comments)
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Prosecutor Searches ATTT Offices in Taxi Permit Scandal

CorruptionBy JOSÉ OTERO and MÓNICA PALM for La Prensa - Documents relating to the alleged illegal issuance of temporary operating permits for taxis and buses, issued by the management of the Transit Authority and Land Transport (ATTT), were found in the higher office of that entity. This was announced by the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor, Ramses Barrera, who yesterday conducted an inspection of the ATTT files as part of the criminal investigations being carried out by this case. Now they will analyze those documents to determine whether they met the rules governing the institution or whether they violated the law. Similarly, Barrera noted he would review the minutes of the Board of Directors of the ATTT, to see if there was any discussion of the sale of temporary operating permits. Barrera acted after the former director of the ATTT Sandra Escorcia report on the situation. Yesterday, Escorcia told La Prensa the details of some of those anomalies. The current leaders of the Authority, however, defend the legality of the permits. The managing director of the ATTT, Jorge R. Fabrega said he did not know anything about the inspections being carried out by the prosecutor. "I just received him and put him into contact with the legal staff of the institution," he said. Fabrega reiterated what has already been reported by the Executive: an interim committee of inquiry concluded there were no irregularities. As a result, the deputy director of the ATTT, who had been separated from his position, was reinstated in office. Moreno is a principal member of the National Political Committee of the ruling Democratic Change party.
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Petition for Habeas Corpus Presented On Behalf of Salvador Rodriguez

Corruption La Estrella - Victor Almengor, the lawyer for former Education Minister Salvador Rodríguez, filed a writ of habeas corpus before the Supreme Court, to avoid the possibility of a arrest warrant being issued against his client. According to Rodriguez's attorney, the Public Ministry proceeding to carrying out preventative detentions that are not in accordance with due process, and therefore for them it is necessary to act in anticipation - that at any given time the Public Ministry might order the arrest of the former minister Rodriguez; and even more so when the investigations that are being carried out do not merit preventative detention, taking into account the crimes and their corresponding penalties that apply. The The precedent of the case of former Minister Belgis Castro, also from the education portfolio, has forced them to act with foresight. (See Comments)
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"They Want To Put Me and Torrijos In Prison" - Perez Balladares

Corruption By Arnulfo Barroso W. for the Panama America - Former Panamanian President Ernesto Pérez Balladares said he does not doubt the veracity of the complaint made by Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez who said she is receiving political pressure to use the Public Ministry for political persecution. Gomez told the National Assembly on Monday that there is a systematic campaign to remove her from office, because she refuses to imprison former presidents without evidence or scientific proof. "I know from different sources there has been direct intervention by the executive (Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli) and even pressure to "arrest former President Perez Balladares or Former President Torrijos," Perez Balladares told Panama America. The Attorney General said she has received political requirements and that she cannot be "naive", so the only thing she can do is to "prepare for what's coming." Meanwhile Perez Balladares said he has reports of "political pressure" from the Executive against the Attorney General and prosecutors "which I will denounce in time." He added "it's obvious there is a wish to push her (Gomez) aside, in order to replace her with someone more 'manageable' for the Executive." Perez Balladares said that nonetheless they want to build a case against him and for this they will use the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), an agency of the Ministry of the Presidency, "breaking all the laws that govern ..." . The UAF opened an investigation into alleged money laundering against the company Shelf, in which Perez Balladares has signature authority, and forwarded the report to the Attorney General Gomez. Subsequently Panama's Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime, Jose Ayú Prado, said the figure of Perez Balladares does not appear in the report. The former president stressed that in the UAF investigations corporations are involved, of which he is neither a director or a legal representative. He charged that the Government is also using the Department of Revenue, assuming that "we are like some of them who evade taxes." (See Comments)
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Belgis Castro Now In the El Renacer Prison

CorruptionBy Manuel Vega Loo for La Prensa - At 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, former Education Minister Belgis Castro was transferred to the El Renacer prison on order of the Director of the National Penitentiary System, Diomedes Kaa. Castro, who was guarded by four officers of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), was wearing the same clothes as last night when he was arrested for violating house arrest. Some of Castro's relatives were in the vicinity of the DIJ, but they declined to make any statements to the media. No members of the Partido Revolucionario Democratico were there, even though until just recently Belgis Castro was a member of the party's National Executive Committee (CEN). Carlos Carrillo, Castro's attorney, told La Prensa that in the coming hours he would file a new motion to have his client released. Carrillo said Castro is being investigated for a crime that does not warrant preventative detention. (With details from William Sala).
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Belgis Castro Returned To Prison For Contempt

Corruption By William Sala for La Prensa - Former Education Minister Belgis Castro was returned to jail yesterday and is being held in the transient cell of the Directorate of Judicial Investigations (DIJ), just two days after he left it. The decision to arrest Castro again was taken by Panama's Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor, Ramsés Barrera when the full session of Panama's Supreme Court, after an extraordinary session of the full court held yesterday afternoon, finished its work to resolve the request for habeas corpus filed in Castro's favor. In that session the magistrates of the Supreme Court determined that the prosecutor Barrera could do what he deemed "appropriate and conducive" to the former minister, who remains under investigation for embezzlement. "We must apply the law. Castro should have respected the interim measure granted to him (of house arrest) based on the conditions imposed," said Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez yesterday afternoon, upon hearing of the Supreme Court's decision. Barrera also said that early this morning he would send a note to the Director of Panama's Penitentiary System, Diomedes Kaa, to instruct him to decide to which detention center the former minister will be sent. Barrera also commented on the apparent good health of the former minister, who participated in public events with no apparent health problems. Castro is accused of embezzlement in the case of the removal of fiberglass insulation from schools. (See Comments)
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Corruption Complaint Filed Against Former Vice President Arosemena

CorruptionLa Critica - Panama's Anti Corruption Czar Fernando Nuñez Fábrega filed a complaint this morning, Monday, 12 October 2009, against the former directors of the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP), including the former Vice President of Panama Rubén Arosemena, as well as Fernando Solórzano and the legal representative of the company Ocean Pollution Control (OPC). According to the complaint, the company Ocean Pollution Control signed a contract with the Panamanian Maritime Authority which allowed that OPC employees also appeared as governmental employees of the AMP. Panama's Anti Corruption Czar Nuñez Fábrega said the complaint has to do with 24 OPC employees who were also supposedly working simultaneously for the AMP as office workers or nautical inspectors, in what he called "bottle" positions. (See Comments)
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Attorney General Says Castro Challenged the Justice System

Corruption By José González Pinilla for La Prensa - Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez said former Education Minister Belgis Castro has "challenged" justice by failing to comply with the precautionary measure of house arrest given to him the the Panamanian Supreme Court which allowed him to be released from prison on Saturday. She said Castro faces possible charges of contempt of court because before he was released the was "duly notified" of his house arrest. "I interpret this as a dangerous challenge, because when the justice system believes in a person and it substitutes a more serious solution such as preventative detention for another less serious solution (such as house arrest), then that person should not challenge the authorities," she added. She said the Public Ministry will make the Supreme Court aware of what it considers to be an act of contempt. "Failure to comply with that which has been established by the Supreme Court can end up getting you in even more trouble," she said. Castro, on the day after leaving the Department of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) where he had been held for 45 days, participated in a meeting of the Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD). (See Comments)
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Supreme Court Gives Belgis Castro House Arrest

Corruption By Carlos A. Rodríguez for La Critica - Former Education Minister Belgis Castro succeeded in obtaining his freedom yesterday. Panama's Supreme Court decided to replace the measure of preventative detention, which Castro has served in an office of the DIJ for the past 45 days, with an interim measure of house arrest. In a 5 to 4 ruling, Supreme Court Magistrates Alberto Cigarruista, Jerónimo Mejía, Víctor Benavides, Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño and Oydén Ortega declared that Castro's arrest was legal, however they granted an injunction in the embezzlement investigation being carried out against Castro with regards to a contract for $136,872 awarded to the company INMECA to remove fiberglass insulation from 10 schools in the Western part of the province of Panama. (Editor's Comment: Basically, this just means that Belgis Castro has to remain on house arrest while the investigation into these alleged crimes continue. If the Supreme Court had not decided in his favor then he would have had to remain in prison while the investigations continue and he awaits trial. Most of the people in Panama don't have either money or lawyers capable of pulling something like this off, and they sit in prison for years awaiting trial. Very often when they finally are granted a trial they are acquitted and set free, some two to three years later. Anyway, now Belgis Castro will have to remain in his house until trial. When Belgis Castro was arrested he was a sitting member of the National Executive Committee (CEN) of the Partido Revolucionario Democratico (PRD) political party. He, along with the rest of the CEN, has since resigned and the PRD is going through a process of "renewal." Ricardo Martinelli continues with his efforts to prosecute all of the members of the former PRD administration of Martin Torrijos, as well as any potential political rivals, such as Ernesto Perez Balladares.)
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Belgis Castro Given House Arrest in Corruption Case

Corruption By Yessika Valdes for the Panama America - The judges of the Supreme Court (CSJ) decided a few minutes ago to grant relief to former Education Minister Belgis Castro. In an extraordinary sesson of the full court, held this Saturday morning at the Supreme Court of Justice, the court decided that the arrest warrant issued by the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor against the former minister is legal, but they also decided to apply an interim measure - house arrest - instead of making him remain in prison while he awaits trial on the several investigations pending against him for corruption and embezzlement. The order also stipulates that Castro must remain in the country. Belgis Castro's son told RPC radio he was grateful for the decision made by the Supreme Court. "You have to know the truth about the case in which they accuse my father," he added.
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"No More Messing Around and Bribery" - Martinelli

CorruptionTVN Noticias - Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli did not miss the opportunity to lash out at his political opponents in the PRD, saying that they were "stealing from the country, and I'm warning them that the bribery and messing around is over." "As you wish and it will be my pleasure, we will start to uncover all of the scandals, because this country can't take it anymore," said Martinelli who reminded the PRD that those who were members of the past government are now the loudest critics. "They have husked the government and destroyed everything, and they didn't steal the Herons from the Presidential Palace only because they make too much noise," he said. But the president took the opportunity to reiterate that the State can not continue to pay the wages of Coosemupar workers because that would be irresponsible because they are not working. We are unable to produce bananas because that's not our job, the president said. As for alternatives for people who live in this sector of the country, the president announced that they are participating in discussions with representatives from the UAE who are interested in establishing a refinery in Panama. Martinelli said representatives from the UAE would not come to Panama before because bribes were being demanded, and that has since stopped. During the inauguration of the new system which will allow CSS patients to make medical appointments via telephone, Martinelli called upon the Directors of Coosemupar to resign from their posts, because they cannot allow three or four hotheads to continue to benefit from the sacrifices being made by the rest of the humble workers. (See Comments)
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Presidential Jet Was Used For "Shopping Trips"

Corruption By Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - The Anti-Corruption Secretariat filed several complaints against the former director of the Civil Aviation Authority, Eustacio Fabrega, one of them alleging the presidential aircraft was used for "shopping trips" to Miami. Lawyer Benjamin Herrera, a legal advisor to the Anti Corruption Czar, said Fabrega and other officials took advantage on a Saturday in 2007 when the presidential aircraft had to be sent to Miami for maintenance to travel to the United States and when the plane landed they went shopping. Herrera said the presidential aircraft should be used only for official missions and that at this time when it was due for maintenance, but it was being used for personal matters. Herrera claimed to have evidence, photographs, audit reports, and flight records, all of which were turned over to the Attorney General's Office. For its part, Eustacio Fabrega said on the radio station KW Continente that all flights were part of his work and that he did not know what kind of flights the Anti-Corruption Czar was referring to. The Anti Corruption Czar also denounced the use of 30 airline tickets that were awarded by airlines to be used by the office of the First Lady or the National Government for official missions, but that were used instead by high ranking members of the AAC and their family members to travel to Spain, Miami, and Amsterdam. Another complaint alleged that private aircraft with tail numbers HP-669 and HP-1674 used fuel owned by the government to conduct missions that were supposedly official to Kuna Yala, Bocas del Toro, and Chiriqui.
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Former President Admits To Being A Speed Freak

Corruption By Jose Otero and Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - "I have never committed an illegal act in my life. I've broken the law sometimes, because I like to drive faster than the law usually allows, but that's the only violation I have made to the law." With these words former Panamanian president Ernesto Perez Balladares tried to distance himself from the investigation into the supposed laundering of funds opened by the Public Ministry, involving Shelf Holding Inc., a company he manages and which constantly received sums of money from the casino company Lucky Games S.A. "To suppose that this public servant could participate in money laundering is not only absurd, it's stupid," Perez Balladares said yesterday during a press conference. Perez Balladares avoided discussing his ties to Shelf Holding Inc., whose bank accounts he controls, and through which moved in recent years several million dollars through the local banking system. He did not say why the company had received money from Lucky Games Ltd. However, he former president accused Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli of "political persecution" and said the government uses the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) as a "political police". The core of the file of the investigation being conducted by the Special Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime, by prosecutor José Ayú Prado, is based on a preliminary report from the UAF consisting of over 600 pages. Prado Ayú confirmed yesterday that he is investigating suspected money laundering, and that the case involves the company Shelf Holding Inc. (See Comments)
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Former CSS Director René Luciani Defendes Spending

Corruption Panama America - In a letter dated September 2, 2009, the director of the CSS, René Luciani, said the Foundation does not qualify for this type of contract because they did not have a hospital setting. It also claims they hired the San Fernando Clinic to provide service to 18 dialysis patients with a commitment to increase their capacity to attend to patients starting from 15 June 2009. Luciani also justified the individual contracts and hirings by saying that at the time dialysis patients, led by David Ocálagan, were protesting and exerted pressure on the CSS. (Editor's Comment: René Luciani has now been removed from the CSS, and almost certainly the administration of Ricardo Martinelli will follow their previous pattern of conduct to find irregularities and to forward that information to prosecutors for formal investigation. When he left the CSS there was a formal ceremony and he was handed a plaque and a pat on the back, which drew the ire of the patients and family members of those who are suffering from the effects of DEG poisoning. René Luciani had enough political power within the PRD to hold onto his position even though the CSS was in the center of the storm. Now that the PRD is out of power and René Luciani is out of the CSS, you can probably expect to hear more about him in the future rather than less.)
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Pérez Balladares, Investigated for Money Laundering

Corruption By Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - The Public Ministry has opened an investigation into alleged money laundering against Shelf Holding Inc., the company managed by former Panamanian president Ernesto Pérez Balladares that consistently received sums of money from the company Lucky Games S.A.. The investigation which began on 14 September 2009 is being handled by José Ayú Prado, the Chief of the Public Ministry's Special Organized Crime Prosecutor's Office. This was confirmed to La Prensa by high ranking judicial sources. The core of the case file is comprised of a preliminary report from the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), which consists of over 600 pages and covers part of the money trail from bank accounts managed by Lucky Games S.A. to bank accounts with ties to Perez Balladares. The UAF focused on two companies; Shelf Holding Inc. and PTY Adventures Inc. They also analyzed three bank accounts, two that were opened in the Primer Banco del Istmo (now HSBC) and a third in the Banco Panameño de la Vivienda (Banvivienda). The latter account - as was reported in La Prensa - is managed directly by Perez Balladares, who is the authorized signatory on the account along with his personal secretary. From there funds were taken to pay for personal expenses, political donations, employee payroll, and foreign travel for the former president. Some of that money came from Lucky Games, SA, the company which the administration of Ernesto Perez Balladares awarded a concession to operate slot machine facilities in 1996. Rogelio Cruz, the former president's lawyer, said the report by the UAF was not signed by any responsible person and was done "without complying with the requirements of the law." Cruz also called irregular the investigation being conducted by the Public Ministry irregular and warned that "The newspaper La Prensa will commit criminal libel" if it publishes the information. The investigation being conducted by Ayú Prado joins another investigation pending against Perez Balladares for the alleged crimes against public administration. This investigation - which is being conducted by the prosecutor Yolanda Austin - has been left without action. Defense lawyers for Perez Balladares filed two appeals; the first to have the case nullified for supposed "double jeopardy" and another to have the criminal case closed. The fate of the case was left to the judge Georgina Tuñón.
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Protection Lifted from Belgis Castro For Another Corruption Case

Corruption By Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - Panama's Electoral Tribunal lifted the electoral immunity of former Education Minister Belgis Castro in relation to another corruption case being investigated by the First Anti Corruption Prosecutor for the scandal involving contracts to remove fiberglass insulation from schools, this time in Chiriqui. The damage to the state detected in this case amounts to $249,496.10, according to an audit by the Comptroller. According to the Comptroller the Ministry of Eduction let direct contracts to four companies that were supposed to remove the fiberglass from 15 schools, but the work was never completed.
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Another attempt to stop the CEMIS case

CorruptionBy JOSEPH OTERO for La Prensa - A new action against the reopening of the CEMIS case was presented by counsel for former Democratic Revolutionary Party lawmaker Mateo Castillero, one of the three defendants in this process. Castillero's technical defense filed a motion for annulment yesterday, alleging that the Solicitor General, Ana Matilde Gomez, violated due process by failing to notify the parties involved of a request to reopen the case made in March 2005. On 22 July 2009, the full Supreme Court decided to reopen the file, but the ruling to hand down this decision still has not been published and it remains in the hands of Judge Oyden Ortega. Castillero's lawyer challenged Judge Ortega but six days later, on 29 September 2009, the full court rejected this appeal. Ortega's draft is circulating among the judges, who must define under what conditions the investigation will be reopened and who will conduct that investigation; the Public Ministry, the National Assembly, or the Supreme Court, through a judge acting as a prosecutor.

Editor's Comment: This CEMIS scandal is potentially the most important corruption case in Panama right now because both Martin Torrijos and Balbina Herrera are involved as allegedly having taken bribes, as well as a host of lawmakers. A key strategy for the administration of Ricardo Martinelli is to keep up the pressure on the PRD with a never ending series of corruption litigation - so that in five years there won't be any PRD members left who are clean enough to survive a political campaign. When Panama pulls out of the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) then Martin Torrijos loses all immunity and protection from prosecution - so all bets are off.

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Ombudsman: Police Major Committed Four Fouls

Corruption By Denise Lara for Telemetro Reporta - The Ombudsman, Ricardo Vargas, spoke today about the investigations into a case of apparent abuse by a Major of the National Police who attacked two fuel station attendants. Vargas criticized the position of Director of the National Police, Gustavo Perez, who expressed his support for the office without having waited for the results of an internal investigation. The interview follows:

Editor's Comment: This incident, which was caught on video tape, is growing in importance. On Friday there was a hearing in the office of the local corregiduria which basically resulted in the issuance of a protection order, and nothing more. According to Vargas the National Police now have to conduct an internal investigation, and his office will request those results. They will also be conducting an inspection in the office of the corregiduria to ensure they followed proper procedures in the hearing because the fuel station attendants are saying they were not allowed to present their side of the story. You really don't need to know much - just watch the videotape and it's obvious this was a cop, in uniform and on duty and armed, who thought it was alright for him to reach out and grab people by the throat and then punch them in the face. If the Director of the National Police does not come down harshly on this guy, there will be calls for his head.

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Anticorruption Czar Denounces Abnormalities In Property Acquisition

Corruption TVN Noticias - Panama's anti corruption czar filed a complaint against the managing director of the Office of Social Security, Eduardo Carrasquilla. According to Fernando Nunez Fabrega, Carrasquilla used his position when he served as the Director of Income of the Office of Social Security to obtain goods illegally, which he says cannot be justified. Involved are a farm in Boquete, a house in Clayton, another in Albrook, and a car. According to the complaint, Carrasquilla used his sister in law Eloisa Serrano Gutierrez as an intermediary to hide the true owner of property located in Clayton. The denounced irregularities also involve Victor Manuel Leiva and Javier Quiros, who served as the judge executor. Fabrega said his complaints would be presented to the Public Ministry.
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