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Sunday, April 20 2014 @ 06:48 AM EDT

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Balbina Herrera and Bobby Velasquez Deny Murcia's Claims

Corruption

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This afternoon both Balbina Herrera and Bobby Velasquez denied having received any money from David Murcia, who is currently in prison in Colombia awaiting trial on money laundering charges. Both of the PRD candidates tried to turn to discussion toward Ricardo Martinelli, and categorically denied having taken a dime from Murcia. When asked if she would participate in and help and potential investigation on the part of Panama's Public Ministry or Electoral Tribunal into these allegations, Balbina Herrera sidestepped the question and failed to answer with a simple yes or no. No matter what happens, this election in Panama just got a whole lot more interesting, and you can expect these allegations to make international news.

Copyright 2008 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Panama rejects canal corruption fears

CorruptionBy Adam Thomson in Panama City for the Financial Times.com - The head of the Panama Canal Authority has rejected fears that corruption and the global financial crisis could mar ambitious plans to expand capacity of the inter-ocean seaway. Four consortiums, comprising many of the world’s leading engineering and construction companies, are expected tomorrow to submit bids to design and build a set of locks for the canal. The estimated $5.25bn (€4.2bn, £3.7bn) project, by far Panama’s largest infrastructure endeavour since the canal was completed in 1914, aims to double capacity and is considered vital to accommodate recent global shipping trends. (more)
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Balbina: Influence and Pressure in AMP Payment

CorruptionBy SANTIAGO FASCETTO for La Prensa - At first she paid two visits to the office of the President of the Board of Directors of the Panamanian Maritime Administration (AMP.) Later, she participated in a legislative meeting in the National Assembly that lacked a required legal framework. And in the end, she used her position as a Deputy in the National Assembly to intercede before the Panamanian Supreme Court. The three actions taken by Balbina Herrera, between 1998 and 2000 all had the same goal; to establish and then later facilitate an indemnification payment by the government of Panama to the company See Buy & Sail S.A., whose holder at that time was her husband Mohamed Lafi Hamdan. The Government of Ernesto Perez Balladares gave a concession to Mohamed Lafi Hamdan in the port of Cristóbal in 1996. The business only lasted a few months. In 1997 Panama Port took over the port terminal, and Lafi Hamdan had to leave the concession, but not without first requesting to which he had the right according to his contract, for "improvements installed" and "non perceived utility" which eventually ended up in the Supreme Court. (more) (See Comments)
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"I Have Nothing To Hide" - Martin Torrijos

Corruption By José Edwin Sánchez M. for La Critica - Although he will occupy the position that corresponds to him in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) as a former President, Martin Torrijos said that upon entering this organization he will not look for any kind of immunity because during his administration he had not committed any kind of crime which could be investigated. Torrijos emphasized that during his administration things have been handled with transparency and therefore, he doesn't have anything to fear, and that "not now, not later after I have left the position, will I have anything to hide." On another subject Torrijos said the program to modernize public transportation will not be suspended, because he is committed to establish the foundations to change the present system, which will have to be completed by the next administration. It said he understands the dismay of those people who have been involved in accidents caused by bus drivers, but it is clear that the present system of "red devils" has collapsed and that's why they have already started this program to modernize the system, which he does not intend to suspend. (See Comments)
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35% More Corruption Complaints in 2008

CorruptionBy William Sala for La Prensa - Complaints filed against Panamanian government institutions alleging acts of corruption increased 35% in 2008 compared to 2007, according to information released by the offices of the Anti Corruption Prosecutor yesterday. Prosecutors Ramsés Barrera, Yolanda Austin and Mercedes De León explained that in 2008 a total of 821 complaints were filed, compared to 520 in 2007, an increase of 291 cases. In addition these cases represent alleged acts of corruption in 56 different governmental agencies causing more than $7.5 million dollars in damages to state coffers. In addition there are twelve more cases in which the total damages to the state have not yet been determined. The scandal involving the Fund for Fairness and Quality in Education (FECE) of the Ministry of Education for $1.5 million dollars was the largest single case of the year. The theft of the sculptures of the "Juegos de Antaño" from a storage facility in the Parque Omar was also included on the report. With regards to the recovery of stolen assets, the First Anti Corruption Prosecutor Mercedes De León said those agencies or institutions affected must demand them, since it is not a function of the prosecutor's office. The prosecutors said it has been difficult to investigate these kinds of crimes because subordinates who are caught often do not want to implicate their bosses who obligate them to commit these acts. They added that rewards for $1,500 and $10,000 respectively are still in effect for the cases of the embezzlement of the FECE funds and the theft of the sculptures, respectively. (See Comments)
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Five Customs Officials To Be Charged For Corruption

CorruptionBy Rocío I. Martins A. for El Siglo - It's possible irregularities have been occurring for years. Five employees of Panama's National Customs Authority and a private customs agent are being investigated by Customs Control for their alleged involvement in a scheme that has cost the government thousands of dollars in lost revenue since 2007. Vilma de Luca, the Director of the National Customs Authority (ANA), said they have already sent the results of an internal audit to the Nation's Comptroller containing key information so the state can determine the actual total of lost government funds. So far it has been possible to determine that the government employees involved, among them two who work in the computer department, falsified certain documents and only paid $1 one dollar in import taxes to pull cars from the lots containing recently arrived vehicles. Once they obtain a legal opinion based on the information contained in the comprehensive audit, they intend to forward the information and evidence to the Public Ministry so that charges can be pressed against the employees involved for the crimes related to their conduct.
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Chito Montenegro Requests Sanction for Lawmaker

Corruption By Saúl Quintero Quirós for El Siglo - The application of justice continues to be one story for the average Panamanian and a whole different thing for those who enjoy privileges and immunity, and the case of the Deputies of the National Assembly is no exception. This was demonstrated after the lawmaker Zulay Vásquez of the ruling Partido Revolucionario Democratico prevented authorities from administering a blood alcohol test to her son on 24 December 2008. Enrique “Chito” Montenegro, of the National Front Against Corruption, requested an investigation and a moral sanction in this case. "The actions of Deputy Vásquez leaves much to be said and it is a poor example for the citizenry," he said. The Deputy from Capira created the scandal when, apparently, her son collided with a police patrol car at the traffic light located at the entrance of the El Bosque residential neighborhood on Tumba Muerto. According to Montenegro, parliamentary ethics do not establish that a person who is not member of the National Assembly should enjoy the protections and privileges, only for using a car owned by a member of the National Assembly. "Deputy Vásquez should have let the police do their jobs because no one is immune from the law," he said. Deputy Elías Castillo, a former member of the Ethics Commission of the lawmaking body, said the National Assembly has established a code of conduct, but that in these cases they can only apply a moral sanction and that only the courts of justice can determine a legal or criminal sanction. Deputy Vásquez has remained silent on this case and has not shown her face, like she did on Christmas eve. (Comments Follow)
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Another Ferrari Registered To Another Lawmaker

Corruption By MÓNICA PALM for La Prensa - Another deputy is being scrutinized for having imported a luxury vehicle, duty free, that ended up in the hands of a third party. In question is the Representative to the Central American Parliament Roosevelt Cabrera Caballero who is the substitute for Carlos Duque (PRD). According the vehicle registry of the Municipality of Panama, Cabrera is the owner of a red Ferrari 360 Modena that was sought by Panama's Anti Drug Prosecutor because it was the favorite car of David Murcia G., who was arrested and deported to Colombia for fraud and laundering drug money. This is the second Ferrari driven by Murcia that appears in the name of a substitute lawmaker. The other is Harmodio Villarreal (PRD), who has registered in his name the Ferrari G12 Scaglietti seized by the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) a month ago. Cabrera admitted having acquired the car, taking advantage of the right given to the representatives to the National Assembly and the PARLACEN to import cars duty free. He said he returned the Ferrari to the agency, which is why he does not know who has been driving around in it. "That car is still in my name? That's news to me," said Cabrera. "It would be a good idea to talk to the agency," he added. And that is exactly what the Prosecutor's office did last Wednesday, when they realized an inspection in the Auto Sportivo Italiano. There it was confirmed that Cabrera appears as the owner of the car and that he acquired the Ferrari in exchange for an apartment in the Aquamare building. It was not possible to interview the prosecutor José Almengor. Cabrera will be a member of the Central American Parliamentary for six more months. At least, for the PRD, his name is not on the list of main candidates and substitutes. (See Comments)
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Another Arrest in the FECE Corruption Case

CorruptionBy Carlos Rodriguez for La Critica - Augusto Enrique Cordova was arrested last Sunday by DIJ agents who were executing an arrest warrant for "crimes against the patrimony" (corruption). The file corresponds to the embezzlement of $1.5 million dollars from the Fund for the Fairness and Quality of Education (FECE), monies supposedly destined for the improvement of 25 schools. So far there are eleven people in custody in this case. (Editor's Comment: This is another report related to the ongoing investigations into the FECE corruption case in which corrupt government officials, mostly working for the Ministry of Education in San Miguelito, forged checks and stole government funds that were supposed to improve the education system in that area.)
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US House of Representatives Passes Bill That Affects Panamanian Americans

Corruption(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) – December 1, 2008 – On October 6th the U.S House of Representatives moved to force companies that sell or distribute prepaid calling cards to describe any fees associated with the cards on packaging and in advertising. The legislation declared that the calling card industry is "plagued by fraudulent and deceptive business practices," and this new legislation is an attempt to combat that. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority. Since Panamanian Americans make up a sizable percentage of international callers, this legislation will have a profound effect on them. The legislation came after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an investigation into the industry. The investigation concluded that card companies only deliver an average of 60% of the minutes promised due to charges that are hidden from the consumer. National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg stated in testimony to the FTC, "[The calling card industry] is a 'Wild West' of sellers and merchants who too often prey upon the most vulnerable consumers by promising minutes they don't deliver and loading up on hidden or undisclosed charges and fees." (more)
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Investigations Into FECE Corruption Scandal Almost Done

CorruptionBy RAFAEL LUNA NOGUERA for La Prensa - The embezzlement of the Fund for Fairness and Quality of Education (FECE) in San Miguelito, considered to be one of the worst corruption scandals of the administration of Panamanian president Martin Torrijos, has entered its final stage according to Mercedes de León, the First Anti Corruption prosecutor. She said that investigations carried out by experts from her office were able to determine that in order to steal the funds from the FECE the 38 persons involved wrote and cashed 468 checks, of those 415 had falsified signatures and the other 53 had the authorizations and original signatures of the position holders. The embezzlement was discovered by workers of the Ministry of Education who noticed irregularities in the conciliation of FECE accounts in San Miguelito.
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"Un Paso Atras" (One Step Back) - Details On DDD Shooting Event from 1970

CorruptionBy José Edwin Sánchez M. for La Critica - Panama's President Martin Torrijos accepted a request from Daniel Delgado Diamante for 30 days leave without pay to clarify events surrounding the death of Corporal Andrés García which occurred on 8 February 1970. The position of Minister of Government and Justice will be occupied as of today by the former Vice Minister Rodrigo Cigarruista. Delgado Diamante yesterday provided to Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gomez a series of documents from his personal files and military record, among which, in effect, there are several reports regarding the actions which ended with the shooting death of García. In synthesis, the reports submitted by Second Lieutenants Daniel Delgado Diamante and Marcio Herazo, sent to Captain Rogelio Alba and Lieutenant Leonidas Prettel on 8 February 1970, in which they say that the corporal was under the effects of alcohol and that he had an M-1 carbine with a fixed bayonet, and that together with Sergeants Simeón Villlarreal and Lucas Fernández and the Guard Porfirio Pérez they tried to calm him down. (more)
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The Day They Faced Down Delgado D.

Corruption By Mónica Palm and Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - The Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD) was the first to understand the necessity to remove Daniel Delgado Diamante from the Executive Cabinet quickly and with dignity, in order to not jeopardize the chances for their candidate Balbina Herrera in the May 2009 presidential elections. The nerves arrived quickly to the Presidential Palace. Herrera said she was “worried” about the events. She said that yesterday morning, before it became known that Delgado Diamante was going to step down on a "leave of absence." The anguish was obvious: it's not every day a widow comes out to tell the story of how the Minister of Government and Justice and PRD militant assassinated her husband in cold blood, 38 years ago. "More than being a worry to me, I am worried how it will effect the country," Herrera said to journalists. (more)
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Minister of Government And Justice Daniel Delgado Diamante Separated From Position

Corruption By José Otero for La Prensa - The Minister of Government and Justice Daniel Delgado Diamante step down from his position as of today. Yesterday, the Minister said he had asked the President of the Republic Martin Torrijos for 30 days of leave without pay in order to face accusations made against him in the murder of Corporal Andrés García. Nevertheless, yesterday afternoon the administration of Martin Torrijos, through a press release, said that Minister Delgado Diamante "was separated from his position" as of today without specifying a time period or limit. Until now, Delgado Diamante has insisted that there is no reason for him to resign. The Vice Minister of Government and Justice Rodrigo Cigarruista has been designated as the "Minister in Charge" according to the press release from the State Communications Secretary. (more) (Photo Credit: LA PRENSA/Jorge Fernández)
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The Statues Were Chopped Up And Sold One Piece At A Time

Corruption By IRLANDA SOTILLO for La Estrella - Under the cover of darkness a bundle covers an immobile little body, one of the children from the “Juegos de Antaño”. Without being able to cry out, the twenty little bodies were chopped up and the 22 doves were captured without the fluttering of their wings causing the slightest concern for more than two years. Some had already seen it, and even in the storage facility someone saw a leg separated from its body. Evidently the parts from the 42 pieces of sculpture of the "Juegos de Antaño" were chopped up and sold off, little by little during 2006 and 2007, until the last pieces of bronze were sold in 2008. That version of events was confirmed by the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor Ramsés Barrera to the press yesterday. Seven people were interrogated in this case and the puzzle seems to get more complicated at every turn. Charges have been brought against five of those implicated, a crime for which they could receive as much as four years in prison. The preliminary investigations indicate that responsibility for the disappearance of the statues can be distributed between; three employees of the Parque Omar recreational area who are in charge of maintenance, two units of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI), a former gang member who was in the "With The Youth" program of the office of the First Lady, and one other person whose ties are unknown. Some witnesses indicate that the doves as well as the other parts and pieces of the sculpture were removed from the park in trucks belonging to scrap metal collectors which is why it is suspected that the statues have been melted down. In the Public Ministry they have resorted to using pictures in order to find those responsible for the crime. The sculptor of the statues, Héctor Lombana, who recently died, dedicated five years of his life to giving form to the statues, with a value of $1.5 million dollars. The public prosecutor did not discard the possibility of formulating charges against the administration, because “there were few controls offered for the protection of state goods”.
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"They Have Made This A Soap Opera" - Delgado Diamante

Corruption By Santiago Fascetto for La Prensa - “They have turned this into a soap opera and they want me to respond to this drama. It's not going to be that way," said Panama's Minister of Government and Justice Daniel Delgado Diamante in commenting yesterday on the death of Corporal Andrés García. On 8 February 1970 Delgado Diamante shot the corporal from a short distance, who bled to death on the way to the Santo Tomas hospital. "This is a case of police character," said Delgado Diamante during an interview with TVN. On the other hand, the Solicitor General of the Nation Ana Matilde Gomez said yesterday she has requested documentation from the tribunals and courts of justice regarding the death of the soldier in order to determine the legal status of the case. And to determine if there is documentation of an investigation in the justice system. This procedure is part of an investigation her office opened last Monday. Delgado Diamante insists that in the case of the assassination of Andrés García, he was investigated, tired, and absolved by the Public Ministry and the Judicial Branch at the time of the crime. Jean Black, the widow of the deceased Corporal, reiterated yesterday that she was never informed of a judicial investigation and that she was never even called in to make a statement. The widow was only a few meters from the location where the shooting took place, in their house located in to few meters of the place of the facts, their house, located in Panamá Viejo. There arrived the then Second Lieutenant Delgado Diamante who was persecuting the corporal. The Citizen's Democracy Network presented a formal criminal complaint yesterday before the Public Ministry and ask for Delgado Diamante to be removed from his position. “While the President keeps me in this position, I will remain in this position," said Delgado Diamante. For her part, co-party member and presidential candidate Balbina Herrera refused to comment on the case.
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Another Arrest in FECE Embezzlement Case

Corruption By Rafael Pérez G. for La Prensa - Betzy Guzmán, the former regional director of the Fund for Fairness and Quality in Education (FECE) in San Miguelito was arrested as part of the criminal investigation being conducted into the multi million dollar embezzlement of funds from the program. Guzmán was arrested under order of the First Anti Corruption Prosecutor Mercedes De León, after she gave her sword testimony in the prosecutor's office last Friday.
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Five Arrested in Missing Sculptures Case

Corruption By Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Reporta - The missing sculptures disappeared from this storage facility in the Parque Omar in Panama City. The Public Ministry continues with their investigations in this case. Until now, the administrator of the Parque Omar, Mingthoy Giro, has been at the center of the investigations into the theft of the statues called the "Juegos de Antaño". However, it has been learned that there are now five people under arrest in this case. They are all employees of the Parque Omar, where the statues were being stored in a warehouse. The five were arrested based on their presumed involvement in the theft. In other related activity, the Public Ministry is currently carrying out searches related to this case.

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Noriega's Banker Goes Back To Prison

Corruption By RAFAEL RODRÍGUEZ for La Estrella - A new medical evaluation of Rafael Arosemena arrived after the Panamanian Supreme Court handed down their decision. The full session of the Panamanian Supreme Court of Justicia (CSJ) questioned the work of the Legal Medical Institute (IMEL) for delivering late the most recent report on a medical evaluation of the former manager of the Panama National Bank, Rafael Arosemena, who was benefiting from home arrest after having open heart surgery. A judicial source confirmed that the decision of the full session of the Supreme Court was handed down at 3:07 p.m. last Thursday, and 57 minutes later the IMEL delivered the new evaluation of the health condition of Arosemena, who is 75 years-old (the former banker for the military dictator Manuel Noriega.) “We call attention to the IMEL, upon observing this Tribunal of Hábeas Corpus, that they did not take care of this requirement in an expeditious manner, in that they did not give due following to the actions of the Santo Tomás hospital, considering the attention this constitutional action demands,” said the magistrates. The decision of the Supreme Court revoked the house arrest and simultaneously ordered the director of the Penitentiary System, Luis Gordón to immediately transfer Rafael Arosemena to the El Renacer Penitentiary Center in Gamboa.
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Spokesman for Balbina Herrera Calls For Giro's Resignation

CorruptionBy Jessica Tasón for La Critica - One of the spokesmen of the campaign of the presidential candidate Balbina Herrera requested yesterday the resignation of the director of programs of the Office of the First Lady, Mingthoy Giro, due to the situation generated by the disappearance of the sculptures "Juegos de Antaño" from a storage facility in the Parque Omar. Alfredo Oranges, one of the spokesmen for Balbina Herrera, said on the program "Más Debate" on La Exitosa, that Giro should have sufficient dignity and to resign in order to step aside for the investigation, because they lifted immunity from her. "When the acts of a civil servant put their judgment in question, they should resign to and step aside for the investigation," he added. Oranges insisted that Giro or any other person in this condition, from any political party, should resign from her post as is done in any civilized country. DETAILS: OPINION Mingthoy Giro has said that she has no problem with the investigation, but she demanded also the capture of those who stole the statues.
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Two Americans Kidnapped By Colombians in Chiriquí

CorruptionBy Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Reporta - On Sunday afternoon two Americans were kidnapped by two assailants in the district of Bugaba in the province of Chiriquí. The Americans were traveling in a minibus, returning from the beach at La Barqueta, when their vehicle was intercepted by subjects who identified themselves as being members of the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ). The driver of the bus was tied up and from what he could tell the kidnappers had Colombian accents. This situation has prompted Panamanian police to initiate a search in the area along the border between Panama and Costa Rica.
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More Than 40 Public Officials Will Have To Give Sworn Statements in Statue Theft Case

Corruption By RAFAEL RODRÍGUEZ for La Estrella - About 40 employees of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI) and the Office of the First Lady will have to render sworn declarations as part of the investigations into the theft of the 42 statues of the “Juegos de Antaño” which were taken in the end of August from a storage facility in the Parque Omar. The Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor Ramsés Barrera said the interrogations of these people will start next week. Barrera is optimistic this case will be solved by the Public Ministry. Nevertheless, they will need the collaboration of other authorities to provide them documents specifying the route taken by these statues. With regards to issues of immunity provided by the Electoral Law to the administrator of the Parque Omar, Mingthoy Giro, prosecutor Barrera affirmed that they have already asked the Electoral Court to lift her immunity so the case can be investigated.
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Q: Corrupt Customs Officials and Robberies of Tourists?

Corruption

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Dear Mr. Winner, As an Ex-CZ Brat I'm an avid reader of Panama-Guide.com. You do a terrific job. Keep up the good work. In reference to you Oct.10th Story, "Big Money Confiscated at Panama Airport" I have a question; Q: Is it a Myth or True that because of some corruption in the National Customs Authority and the leaking of Declared Info of people who have declared a modest amount of money $20 to $40K on arrival at the airport were robbed on their way to the city? I have scrolled though your Crime & Punishment Section for the past year and didn't see any Airport related robberies. As you are very busy, a short word answer: Myth or True will be all I need. Thanks. Regards, Terry." Actually there have been at least ten incidents I can remember just off of the top of my head of "tourists" being robbed of their cash after arriving in Panama City's Tocumen Airport. Normally what happens is they are assaulted along the Southern Corridor, briefly kidnapped, relieved of all of their possessions (including their clothes) and then left in some remote area to try to get help. (more)

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"Conéctate" Denies Mishandling of Funds

Corruption (Source) Within the administration of the program "Conéctate al Conocimiento" (Connect to Knowledge) there no fraud, poorly handled funds, or nepotism; and on the contrary the program has been managed within the parameters of transparency demanded by the United Nations Development Program, according to Julio Escobar and Gaspar Tarté, the Secretaries of SENACYT and Governmental Innovation, respectively. Escobar and Tarté, held a press conference in the presidency yesterday to members of the Panamanian press. Escobar explained that contracts have been awarded following practices and established procedures for public bids and that there is no legal mechanism preventing any company from participating in these administrative procedures, since to do so would be arbitrary, illegal and discriminatory, as specified in Panamá Compra and by the PNUD. (more)
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More Irregularities Over Missing Statues

Corruption By Jossmar Castillo for El Siglo - The sculptures called the “Juegos de Antaño” are not only missing, but for their creation more money was used than what should have been, and the work was never completed. These were the results of an audit conducted by the Nation's Comptroller in response to a complaint filed by the Panamanian Association of Plastic Artists (APAP) and the Panamanian Association for Conservation and Restoration filed on 22 January 2000. There appear to be irregularities on all sides. For the elaboration of the statues, contract #270 was signed between the Minister of Foreign Relations and the Colombian sculptors Héctor Lombana Piñeres and Luis Miguel Garzón and Panamanian Ariel Saldaña. According to the contract, the entire work was to cost $245,000 dollars and the sculptors had to provide 25 tons of brass, machinery, tools and the transportation of the finished work. They also had to include 100 doves and to transport the sculpture "Huacal de Madera" from Colombia to Panama. All of this was to adorn the events related to the Tenth Summit of Latin American Chiefs of State, held in Panama in November 2000. Perhaps they should have applied the proverb "a bird in the hand is worth more than 100 flying" because 55 of the doves never appeared, causing an injury to the state of $35,672 dollars according to the audit. And the Chiefs of State who participated in the Summit could never appreciate the "Huacal de Madera" statue for which the state paid $3,320. It never arrived. In addition, 2.7 tons of bronze were bought for $9,800 dollars and it is still not known for what it was used. All told the injury to the state comes to $48,792 dollars. In August of the year 2004 the Ministry of Foreign Relations transferred the monument to the Ministry of Economy and Finanzas (MEF). And then, the Chief of the MEF Norberto Delgado transferred the sculpture to the "Fundación Pro Educación Integral de la Niñez y la Juventud" (Foundation For the Integral Education of Childhood and Youth) that was directed by the First Lady Ruby Moscoso de Young. It was then that the statues were installed at the "Museo Panamá del Niño y la Niña" better known as the Museo el Tucán. The transfer of the statues to this private foundation is also being investigated.
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Stolen Statues Worth $210,000 As Scrap Metal

Corruption By RAFAEL RODRÍGUEZ for La Estrella - President Martin Torrijos reiterated his confidence in the investigations the Public Ministry is conducting to find those guilty of the theft of 42 pieces of sculpture of the “Juegos de Antaño” that were taken more than a month ago from a storage facility located in the Parque Omar in Panama City. Torrijos did not want to speak much about this corruption scandal, limiting himself to say "I have confidence that the Public Ministry will do a good investigation." But reality seems to me something different. The (then) Second Anti-Corruption public prosecutor (in charge), Grisell Mojica, conducted thirteen searches in Panama City and in the interior of the country, and in addition took sworn statements from twelve civil servants and businessmen. Nevertheless, there are no signs of these bronze statues valued at more than $1.5 million dollars. The investigation of this case is now in the hands of the newly appointed Second Anti Corruption prosecutor Ramsés Barrera, who will have to call to testify the various people who were responsible for the safekeeping of these statues. Among the government employees who still have to be interrogated in this case are the members of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI) who were working when the statues were stolen. The Director of the Parque Omar Mingthoy Giro will also have to give her testimony because the doors of the storage facility where the statues were being stored were not forced open or damaged. Meanwhile, Panama's Solicitor of the Nation, Ana Matilde Gomez is still waiting for the Minister of the Presidency Dilio Arcia to send her documentation regarding the status of the projects coordinator of the office of the first lady, Mingthoy Giro. Lawyers for Mingthoy Giro said that this week she will break her silence and is prepared to speak with journalists to clear any doubts surrounding this scandal that has monopolized the attention of the Panamanian society. (See Comments)
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Those Responsible For Missing Statues Should Be Held Responsible

CorruptionBy Yessika Valdés for the Panama America - The Executive Secretary of the National Council of Transparency against Corruption, Alma Montenegro de Fletcher, said that those civil employees who were responsible for safekeeping the missing sculptures the “Juegos de Antaño” that disappeared several weeks ago should be investigated. “It is necessary to hold responsible those who were responsible for the safekeeping of these sculptures valued at more than $1 million dollars," said Montenegro. She added that it was a question of negligence and she does not rule out complicity in the case, which is why she is calling for investigators to get to the bottom of the case. For their part the Public Ministry is still waiting for the official communication from the Ministry of the Presidency in which they present the position that the person responsible for the administration of the Parque Omar is Mingtoy Giro.
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Police Increase Reward to $10,000 In Statue Theft Case

Corruption By Nidia Barría for El Siglo - The “assumed” theft of the statues "Juegos de Antaño" has the authorities worried to the point that the National Police have increased the reward offered from $5,000 to $10,000 dollars for information leading to the location and recovery of the statues. The exact date of the disappearance of the bronze statues is not known, but since the Ministry of the Presidency presented a complaint before the Public Ministry at the beginning of the month, little information regarding the theft has been obtained. The statues, weighing approximately 35 tons and having a value of approximately $1.5 million dollars were guarded by officers of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI) in the Parque Omar, where, it appears, they were being stored. That is why the authorities of the Public Ministry can't understand when they were taken from the storage facility in the park where they were supposedly being guarded. The Colombian artist, Héctor Lombana Piñeros, designed the 42 sculpture pieces in 2002 representing children and birds playing the traditional games of the country. Anyone wishing to provide information on the location of the statues can call 264-9110 and talk to the Division of Crimes Against the Patrimony of the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ).
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Harley Mitchell Visits Bocas del Toro

Corruption By ANGEL SANTIAGO PIMENTEL for La Estrella - The President of the Panamanian Supreme Court of Justice, Harley James Mitchell, visited the area yesterday where he the new offices of the Judicial Branch of government will be constructed in Bocas del Toro, saying "it is necessary to fight corruption." Mitchell said one of the points on his agenda was to meet with the judges and magistrates of the provinces of Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro, to hear details of the cases being heard there. “We are striving to clean up the Judicial branch of government and to impose transparency in the performance of judicial functions," stressed Mitchell. Arturo Ordóñez, a trial lawyers with more than 20 years experience in Bocas del Toro, said that complaints exist against the administration of justice as well as complaints of judicial wrongdoing, and that so far there have been no dates established for even preliminary hearings.
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Another Corruption Case Goes Unpunished

Corruption By Grisel Bethancourt for the Panama America - Another corruption case goes unpunished. The case involves a diversion of construction materials which occurred in the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) between 2002 and 2004, when materials that were destined to repair schools went instead to construct a beach house in Costa Esmeralda. The Third Anti Corruption Prosecutors office filed the complaint and asked the courts to issue a provisional dismissal of the case for those implicated in this investigation, in which $254,000 dollars was taken from the MEDUCA in construction materials. Anti Corruption prosecutor Yolanda Austin made the decision to close the case after not receiving an audit report on the materials supposedly acquired by the MEDUCA, which she requested on several occasions from the Nation's Comptroller, confirmed a judicial source. (more)
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