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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 10:10 PM EDT

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78 Cases of Corruption Being Investigated

Corruption RAFAEL E. R. BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - Panama's Comptroller of the Republic sent 78 cases to the newly created Court of Auditors, alleging corruption in the government where the total damage to the State could amount to more than $4.1 million dollars. All of the files submitted between February and July of this year are linked to actions taken by members of the administraion of Martin Torrijos. Among the new cases under investigation by the Court Auditors is a report on the management of the consulate in Rotterdam by Luis Ramirez, fresh evidence of the disappearance of sculptures from Parque Omar, and cases related to the scandal over the removal of fiberglass insulation from schools. In this last case several companies and a group of employees from the Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) are being investigated, according to the official report obtained by La Prensa. However, the Court refrained from providing any further details with regards to these corruption cases, to keep from damaging the investigations. Ramirez, who is still the consul in Rotterdam, said he has not been notified of the investigation being conducted by the Court of Audits, but said he has paid all of accounts with the State and they are up to date. In contrast, a report from the Panama Maritime Authority says Ramirez has an outstanding, unpaid, and unreported balance of $240,000 as of 27 July 2009. (See Comments)
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Panama's Solicitor General Should Investigate CEMIS Case

CorruptionBy Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - Luis H. Moreno, of the Panamanian Foundation of Ethics and Civics, thinks Panama's Solicitor General should be the person charged with investigating the CEMIS corruption scandal, the case that was reopened last week by the Panama's Supreme Court of Justice. Moreno, who met yesterday with the primary magistrate responsible for the administration of the CEMIS case, Oydén Ortega, and Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gomez, contends that the bribery investigation should be conducted separately from that being carried out into the naming of judges mentioned in the case. He said this case is "disgraceful" and it is necessary to punish those responsible. According to Moreno, in the meeting with Judge Ortega he was told that very soon they would release the details of the decision ordering the reopening of the CEMIS case, which will decide the jurisdiction of investigation. He also thinks that with the reopening of the CEMIS case, this is a start of the healing of the justice system being called for by the Panamanian people. (See Comments)
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The "Toro Video" Checkmate

CorruptionCarlos Estrada Aguilar for La Critica - Former President of Panama Ernesto Pérez Balladares denied the video and audio tapes, which allegedly confirm the payment of bribes in return for the approval of the CEMIS project by Panama's National Assembly, were spying, and said they are recordings that he has had for seven years, and he was waiting for the right situation in the Supreme Court of Justice in order to be able to turn them over to authorities. According to Perez Balladares the impunity has come to an end and those committing illegal acts "have to pay." Hopefully we can get to the end of an investigation and that those who are guilty will be punished not for revenge, but because we have do safeguard the country's democratic institutions, he added. Should those members of the National Executive Committee (CEN) of the PRD, who are implicated in the CEMIS scandal, be separated from their positions? (Balladares said) they should not have waited until the CEMIS case was reopened, they should have resigned after 3 May 2009 when we lost the election in a landslide, he added. (See Comments)
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Panama's Supreme Court Reopens CEMIS Corruption Case

Corruption
Carlos ‘Tito’ Afú In The Middle Of The CEMIS Corruption Case
Carlos ‘Tito’ Afú In The Middle Of The CEMIS Corruption Case
By JOSE OTERO for La Prensa - Almost six years after the Supreme Court issued a decision closing the scandalous CEMIS bribery case that touched all three branches of the Panamanian government, yesterday the magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice decided unanimously to reopen the case. This decision was adopted by the full cession of the Court and was signed by Delia Carrizo, (for Harley Mitchell), Virgilio Trujillo (for Alberto Cigarruista), Jacinto Cárdenas (for Winston Spadafora), Hipólito Gil (for Adán Arnulfo Arjona), Luis Mario Carrasco (for Jerónimo Mejía), as well as the magistrates Víctor Benavides, Esmeralda de Troitiño, Oydén Ortega and Aníbal Salas. Initially, the court discussed a draft of a decision, prepared by Jacinto Cárdenas, in favor of keeping the case closed. The proposal was rejected. The court also designated Oydén Ortega as the lead magistrate in the case, to develop and present a legal opinion that would be forwarded to the Public Ministry. The investigation began in January 2002 but 20 months later, by order of six of the nine judges of the Supreme Court, the case was closed. Then there was a prosecutor's opinion calling Carlos Afú, Stephen Jones and Martín Rodin to trial. In January 2005 the Solicitor General, Ana Matilde Gómez, formally asked for the case to be reopened. (more)
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Gonzalez: "Cartels and Mafias" in Immigration

Corruption
María Cristina González - Director of National Immigration Service
María Cristina González - Director of National Immigration Service
By Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - The corruption enveloping the National Immigration Service over the issuance of controlled visas for restricted nationalities has touched officials from the previous administration, who are supposedly linked to law firms and Deputies of the National Assembly, said the Director of his entity, María Cristina González. According to Gonzalez they have been able to detect "cartels or mafias" inside of the institution. The Council of State Security received 15 visas for Asians who did not have the proper authorization from the Chief of the National Immigration Service. There are currently ten officers of the Department of Controlled Visas who have been identified, one of them confessed and accepted being a Panameñista activist. Gonzalez said the authorizations for all visas granted in the last few weeks are being investigated by the current administration, yet officials have disobeyed the orders of the Office of Immigration and the High Council of State Security.
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Ricardo Martinelli Will Review New (Bogus) "Decentralization" Law

Corruption By SANDRA ALICIA RIVERA for La Prensa - President-elect Ricardo Martinelli said he would review the new "decentralization" law because the money earned by the Panama Canal can not go straight into the hands of the municipalities without any kind of oversight. The law, approved last Saturday by the National Assembly, establishes that the money from the Program of Communitarian Development (Prodec) will pass without any kind of restriction or limitation to the provincial councils, which - in the government that takes effects starting on 1 July 2009 - will be dominated by the Partido Revolucionario Democrático. “This is not the way the Prodec was structured, which should be respected, so that they can not steal the money generated by the Panama Canal; what's more, there are serious problems in education and health that can not be fixed at the level of the municipalities," he said. He added that they will review the new law in order for it to be adapted into a true form of decentralization. It should not be something used to poorly spend "the funds generated from the Panama Canal, because what we do not want is for them to steal the money," he said. President-elect Martinelli made his statements in an event where he was handing over scholarships to 2,020 primary, secondary, and university students in the province of Chiriquí and the Ngäbe Buglé region. Martinelli came to Chiriquí accompanied by the Minister of Education (designate) Lucy Molinar; the Minister of Social Development (designate) Guillermo Ferrufino, and the future First Lady of Panama Marta de Martinelli. (See Comments)
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Panama's Consul in Rotterdam Owes Almost $700,000

Corruption
Fernando Solórzano
Fernando Solórzano
By Ereida Prieto-Barreiro for the Panama America - Fernando Solórzano said the application of sanctions would fall to the Comptroller. Although the director of the Maritime Authority of Panama (AMP), Fernando Solórzano, confirmed that Luis Ramírez, the Panamanian consul in Rotterdam, Holland, owes $696,075 dollars to his organization, sanctions called for in the Fiscal Code have not yet been applied. Just a few days before the end of the current administration of Martin Torrijos, Solórzano said it "falls to the Comptroller Carlos Vallarino to execute the pertinent sanctions" as established in articles 22 and 23 of the Fiscal Code. Sanctions can be fines as high as $500 dollars as well as the destitution of the violator if necessary. "I do not want anyone to say the AMP is not doing its job, because we have the actual numbers and we have exchanged information with the auditors of the Comptroller," he said. He went on to say the only thing his organization can do is to retain the certification of good standing from the consulates, until they pay the money owed into the account of the Authority. If they do not pay, Solórzano said the cases will be sent to a judge responsible for AMP cases in order to collect the money owed. The Panama América tried to interview Carlos Vallarino, the Comptroller, but was told that his busy schedule that would prevent him from commenting. Irregularities - The Rotterdam consulate is not the only one that has not made required payments - there is a total debt of $1.3 million dollars outstanding from the various consuls that have to be paid to the AMP. Nevertheless, the details of which consuls owe money was not provided and it was pointed out that "this is not the first time" that outgoing consuls have not paid the money they owe to the government. There are former consuls who owe a total of $1.2 million dollars that the judge executor is trying to collect, he added. Faced with this situation, Solórzano said on Friday of last week he sent a note to Ramirez asking him to pay the money owed. He said Ramirez has until the last day of his term in office to pay the money owed, because the Comptroller send an audit report to the Anti Corruption Prosecutor to determine if there has been an irregular handling of the information coming out of the consulate during his term. He said that not only the Comptroller's auditors found irregularities in the information forwarded by Ramirez, but also those of the AMP, because they receive the first reports in detail from the consulates. Debt - Information of the AMP reveals the National Bank of Panama “has not received” transfers due in December 2008, nor those due from January through May of 2009 from Ramirez. In addition the Department of Consular Financial Control said it has not yet reported on April and May of 2009. (See Comments)
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Solicitor General and Comptroller Make Peace - Will Work Together Against Corruption

Corruption By Eduardo Mendoza for El Siglo - Both the Solicitor General of the Nation, Ana Matilde Gómez, and the Comptroller of the Republic, Carlos Vallarino, agreed to stop their disagreements and promised yesterday, in a face-to-face meeting, to improve the coordination of the work being done by both entities. They met yesterday morning in the facilities of the offices of the Public Ministry and decided to work together, cooperate, establish teams to work together, and to maintain better communications. The bone of contention are audit reports that do not arrive in the time required by the prosecutors in order to send more complete reports and case files to the courts. "We are going to work together to ensure the reports arrive quickly to the case files," explained the First Anti Corruption Prosecutor Mercedes de León, in making reference to the time limitations placed on prosecutors in order to be able to present their cases before the courts. The prosecutor said they have a set period of time available to investigate a case. "More than questioning, it is necessary to see it from a constructive point of view," said the Comptroller Carlos Vallarino, who said the agreement to collaborate between the two institutions was done while respecting their respective independence, without one being over the other. (See Comments)
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Solicitor General And Comptroller Trading Barbs in Public

Corruption
Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gómez
Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gómez
By Carlos Estrada Aguilar for La Critica - Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gómez said that when the former Comptroller Dany Kuzniecky left the position in 2006 that she lost a "strategic and fundamental ally" in the fight against corruption, leaving one to assume that his successor, Carlos Vallarino, has not given the same collaboration. The statements made by Gómez on the television program "Debate Abierto Dominical" (Sunday Open Debate) received an immediate response from Vallarino, who said that in the past two years as the Nation's Comptroller he has sent approximately 450 files to the Public Ministry representing a potential theft of governmental funds of $36.3 million dollars, but that no one has been arrested. Vallarino described the statements of the Solicitor General as an "aggression" against the institution and in its place he asked her to provide a report on the 450 cases that he has sent to her office and for her to catch and punish those who are responsible for the corruption. The Comptroller invited Gomez to meet in order to correct the differences to allow for the development of more effective controls. During the interview Gomez said in recent weeks the Comptroller Vallarino has appeared in the press to reveal the details of some corruption investigations in the educative sector (the Ministry of Education) that to not appear in the files or reports of the auditors of the Comptroller, specifically regarding the investigations into possible corruption in the projects to remove fiberglass, and in the cases of projects to improve primitive schools, where he revealed that there were cost overruns to the detriment of the State. Gomez said her prosecutors are investigating cases in which the damage to the state could reach $9 million dollars, but that in the majority of the cases responsibility cannot be defined from the crime to the person because the audit report is incomplete and it is not possible to determine where the money was lost. Gomez said one thing is what the Comptroller says in public, and another the evidence that exists in the file. She said the lack of collaboration comes not only from the Comptroller, but also from the institutions charged with providing the Public Ministry with financial resources, a situation that has been corrected thanks to donations made by allies such as the Embassy of the United States and UNICEF. The Solicitor General Will Remain - Without specifying details, Solicitor Gomez said in the past weeks they have tried to move her chair to make her fall, to the point where there has been a rumor circulating that she will be named as the new Ambassador to Spain, a rumor she forcefully denied. "I deny that anyone has offered me an embassy - I will only leave from the office of the Solicitor General either dead or because I have committed a crime - and I'm not going to do that," she said. Gomez said she is not the type of person to jump from one position to another. She insinuated there are people who are against her because she is a woman, because they did not want to break the break the paradigm that the Public Ministry was a position only for men. She declared that in spite of receiving the endorsement of president Martin Torrijos, she recognizes that the political surroundings of the president (the establishment of the PRD political party) never validated her designation. Gomez said that so far she has received the unconditional endorsement of both President Torrijos and President-elect Ricardo Martinelli. (See Comments)
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Comptroller Calls Ministry of Education a "Center of Corruption"

Corruption
Carlos Vallarino
Carlos Vallarino
By Meredith Serracín for the Panama America - The Comptroller of the Republic, Carlos Vallarino, said he did not want to enter into a direct controversy with the Ministry of Education, but rather he wanted to offer up some healthy advice. He said again today that a contract for $2.4 million dollars for repairs to 18 schools will not be approved because it contains several irregularities, among them cost overruns of $900,000 dollars. Vallarino said on this morning's TVN Channel 2 news broadcast the Ministry of Education is a "center of corruption" - a charge refuted by Minister of Education Salvador Rodriguez. The comptroller repeated that among the documents associated with this contract there is no evidence that a public bidding process was ever held in order to grant the contract. Nevertheless, Education Minister Rodriguez insisted they did try to hold the public bid, but that no contractors wanted to bid on the project and therefore they granted the contract directly. Comptroller Vallarino said the solution to the problem could be found by talking to the contractor and reviewing the costs, and what's more he invited the Minister of Education and his team to arrive at a consensus with regards to the prices, an invitation that he also extended to the designated Minister Lucy Molinar. Vallarino clarified the function of the Comptroller is covered because they have complied with the law, and that it's the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and their inspectors to verify that contracts are executed correctly.
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Six Police Officers Charged With Homicide, Attempted Homicide, and Planting Evidence

Corruption By Magda Maxwell for TVN Noticias - Amid the investigation being carried out by the office of the Auxiliary Prosecutor into the case of the two fishermen who were shot and killed by police officers, contradictions arise, in that a report leaked to the press by the National Police reveals that traces of cocaine were found on the boat "Niña Evi", and that there was gunpowder residue found on one of the hands of one of the victims. The Auxiliary Prosecutor Luis Martinez pressed charges against the six police officers because he has evidence that the fishermen in fact did not have any weapons and that in fact the fishermen did not shoot at the police officers. Martinez adds that someone planted a weapon during the second inspection realized on the fishing vessel where there mysteriously appeared a high caliber weapon, and in addition the trajectory of the bullets indicate there was no confrontation or resistance from the fishermen. Charges of homicide, attempted homicide, planting of evidence, and illegal possession of firearms were pressed by the prosecutor against the six officers; Sergeant Héctor López, Sergeant Augusto Reyna, Sergeant Rafael Caicedo, Corporal Ron Rodríguez, Corporal Rodolfo Bwigoen and Corporal Díaz. The six officers are not under arrest but have been assigned to administrative duties in the police headquarters in Ancon, as dictated by the law governing the National Police, but they cannot leave that facility. Domingo Ábrego, one of the fishermen who was shot and wounded during the confrontation, was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday after having been in the Santo Tomas hospital for several weeks. The fishermen were gunned down by the police officers as they were fishing aboard the "Niña Evi". (See Comments)
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Rodolfo Charro Espino, Martin Torrijos' Uncle, Faces 34 Months in Prison

Corruption
Rodolfo Charro Espino
Rodolfo Charro Espino
By Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Noticias - The team of defense lawyers for Rodolfo Charro Espino, the uncle of Panamanian President Martin Torrijos, filed an appeal against the sentence handed down by the Third Criminal Court of La Chorrera, which established a prison sentence. Rodolfo Charro Espino is facing this sentence for the destruction of several hectares of mangrove swamps in Punta Chame, in the western part of the Province of Panama. The Magistrate Wilfredo Saénz will be the judge responsible for evaluating the appeal. So far, Rodolfo Charro Espino has been sentenced to 34 months in prison and a $50,000 dollar fine.
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Looking For Those Who Were Interested in the Murcia Videos

Corruption By JOSÉ OTERO for La Prensa - The Office of the Prosecutor Specialized on Organized Crime in Panama continues to try to find two citizens of Greek origin, Nicolás Papadimas and Mauricio Cort, who were identified as the people who tried to buy the videos of the meetings between the Colombian David Murcia Guzman and the PRD Mayoral candidate Roberto Velásquez Abood. The prosecutor in charge of that office, José Ayú Prado, said yesterday that those two people have not yet been located, but they are trying to find them. The Brazilian businessman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, in the sworn statement he made before the undersecretary's office of the Public Ministry and ratified before prosecutor Ayú, identified Papadimas as the person who contacted him to buy the videos. Ventura Nogueira also said Papadimas was "connected” to Mauricio Cort, who he identified as being part of the campaign of Velásquez Abood. The businessman said in this declarations that Papadimas asked him “if he had access to those videos" and “if he was ready to sell them." Similarly, the Brazilian businessman said that when he told Papadimas he could not help him obtain the videos, later he received several verbal threats from him, in which he said he would be expelled from the country "in the same way as it happened to Murcia." The filming and the photographs of the meetings held between Murcia and Roberto Velásquez Abood, in the Sheraton Hotel - over the supposed dotations - were supposedly done by the Colombians Andrea Santamaría and Andrés Trujillo, who, according to Ventura Nogueira, were assistants of Murcia Guzman. In his declarations, the Brazilian said that at the moment Santamaría is in Colombia and that Trujillo resides in Chile.
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Ventura and Chong Coronado Face-Off in the Public Ministry

CorruptionBy JOSÉ OTERO for La Prensa - The businessmen Alexandre Ventura Nogueira and Ernesto Chong Coronado will meet face to face today in the offices of the Special Prosecutor for Organized, where the chief of that office José Ayú Prado is investigating the supposed donations made by the Colombian David Murcia to the political campaigns of the two main PRD candidates. Sources within the Public Ministry said within the file of this case, which was opened by the office of the Sub Secretary of the Solicitor General of the Nation, there are four different versions regarding the suitcase full of money David Murcia Guzman says he gave to Roberto Velásquez Abood.
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Roberto Velásquez Arango Presents Complaint Alleging False Testimony

Corruption La Crticia - The lawyer of Roberto Velásquez Arango, Víctor Almengor appeared today before the Public Ministry to present a denunciation for false testimony against businessman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira. Almengor said the denunciation is based on the testimony rendered by Alexandre Ventura Nogueira last week before the Public Ministry, alleging that Mr. Velásquez Arango received a suitcase in a meeting with Murcia held at the Sheraton Hotel. He said his defendant never received a suitcase and much less, money, for the political campaign of his son who is aspiring to be the next Mayor of Panama City. Yesterday the prosecutors José Ayú Prado, William Parodi and Edwin Aguilar held a meeting to coordinate and analyze the case.
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Official PRD Cover-Up To Protect "Bobby" Velásquez in Murcia Scandal?

Corruption By SANTIAGO FASCETTO for La Prensa - The Chief of Panama's Institutional Protection Service (SPI) José Gómez, the Minister of Government and Justice Dilio Arcia, and the Minister of the Presidency Rafael Mezquita, never told the Public Ministry about the meetings held between David Murcia, Roberto "Bobby" Velásquez, and his father Roberto Velásquez. This, in spite of the fact all three were aware Panama's Solicitor General of the Nation, Ana Matilde Gómez, had opened an official and formal investigation into the supposed donations of millions of dollars made by the owner of DMG to the political campaigns of the two primary PRD candidates, Bobby Velásquez (Mayor of Panama City) and Balbina Herrera (Presidency.) Gómez opened her investigation on 11 March 2009. Six days later, the head of the SPI was informed by the three former members of that force who were fired for having guarded Murcia - Fernando Aguilar, Arles Araúz and Rodrigo Ureña - of the encounter between Bobby Velásquez, his father Roberto Velásquez and David Murcia in the Presidential Suite of the Hotel Sheraton. The 24 March 2009 the Minister of Government and Justice was informed as well. And, finally, Mezquita knew the three SPI agents were witnesses to these meetings on 2 April 2009. The three government employees learned (about the meetings) through the official reports - that La Prensa has been able to access - presented by the former SPI agents. In spite of having that information, none of the three officials informed the Public Ministry. The Solicitor of the Nation found out that the three former SPI agents were witnesses to the encounters between Murcia and the Velasquez's on 14 April 2009, when La Prensa published an interview with the agents. Why did the Executive Branch withhold that information? The director of the SPI and Mezquita have chosen to not make any statements. Arcia, on the other hand, said yesterday that the administrative commission investigation the SPI-Murcia scandal has not concluded their work, and therefore, they did not transfer the information to the Public Ministry.
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Financial Analysis Unit To Investigate Bobby Velásquez's Campaign Finances

CorruptionBy JOSÉ OTERO for La Prensa - Experts from the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF) of the National Security Council began to review yesterday the campaign accounts of PRD mayoral candidate Roberto "Bobby" Velásquez Abood, according to Panama's Solicitor General Ana Matilde Gomez. This analysis is being completed as part of the investigation being conducted by the office of the Solicitor General into supposed campaign donations made to the political campaign of Velásquez Abood by David Murcia Guzmán who is currently in prison in Colombia and charged with money laundering. Gomez said she met yesterday with the UAF investigators and gave them documents related to the donations that the candidate had received. The participation of the analysts begins 24 hours after the publication in La Prensa of the declarations made by the three former agents of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI), Fernando Aguilar, Arles Araúz and Rodrigo Ureña, who reiterated before the Public Ministry there was a meeting between Murcia, Velásquez Abood and his father, and that when the meeting was over Roberto Velásquez left with the suitcase that, according to Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, contained $2 million dollars. (more)
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"Murcia Told Me There Was $2 Million Dollars" - Alexandre Ventura Nogueira

Corruption By RAFAEL BERROCAL R. and SANTIAGO FASCETTO for La Prensa - On the morning of 28 October 2008, David Murcia and Alexandre Ventura Nogueira were meeting and talking about business. The discussions centered around the possibility of Ventura Nogueira purchasing the DMG franchise in Panama. During the meeting, Murcia commented to his possible future business partner (Ventura Nogueira) that at any moment he was expecting a visit from the PRD candidate for Mayor of Panama City, Roberto "Bobby" Velásquez. Ventura Nogueira didn't pay much attention to the comment and their discussions turned to other subjects. At around 7:30 pm while Ventura Nogueira was eating together with Murcia in the Presidential Suite of the Sheraton Hotel - a routine they had repeated often during the last month - when Institutional Protection Service (SPI) agent Fernando Aguilar entered the room. Behind him was "Bobby" Velásquez and his father, Roberto Velásquez. (more) (See Comments)
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Alexandre Ventura Nogueira Confirms - Suitcase Contained $2 Million Dollars

Corruption
Alexandre Ventura Nogueira
Alexandre Ventura Nogueira
By SANTIAGO FASCETTO RAFAEL BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - Real estate promoter Alexandre Ventura Nogueira - who was present in the meetings between David Murcia, Roberto Bobby Velásquez, and his father Roberto Velásquez, confirmed yesterday that inside of the suitcase taken from the meeting by Velásquez and his father was money to finance the political campaign of the candidate who is running for the position of Mayor of Panama City. “When the meeting was over, Murcia said to Velásquez and his father, pointing to the suitcase: 'there is what remained to complete the payment,'" said Ventura. He added that Roberto Velásquez (father) took the suitcase and, after the politicians left the meeting, Murcia told him it contained $2 million dollars. The encounter took place in the Presidential Suite of the Sheraton Hotel on 28 October 2008, said Ventura. "During the meeting they never spoke of a number. But what they did say is that in the suitcase was the money to finish the payment that was lacking," he said. (more)
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Roberto Velásquez Abood Left Meeting With Murcia Carrying A Suitcase

Corruption
Fernando Aguilar, Arles Araúz and Rodrigo Ureña - The Three Former SPI Agents Who Guarded David Murcia
Fernando Aguilar, Arles Araúz and Rodrigo Ureña - The Three Former SPI Agents Who Guarded David Murcia
By SANTIAGO FASCETTO and RAFAEL BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - Fernando Aguilar, the former agent of Panama's Institutional Protection Service (SPI) who guarded David Murcia, said yesterday he witnessed a meeting between David Murcia and PRD mayoral candidate Roberto Velásquez Abood. Aguilar said that Velásquez - together with his father - met with Murcia in the Presidential Suite of the Sheraton hotel in Panama City between 27 and 28 October 2008, and that when the meeting was over Velásquez came out of the room carrying a traveler's suitcase. “I am going to tell you that what I remember is seeing that they (Velásquez and his father) left with a suitcase - like a suitcase you use to travel," said Aguilar. Along with Aguilar, Arles Araúz and Rodrigo Ureña were also interviewed for more than three hours. (more) (See Comments)
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The Minister of the Presidency Will Have To Testify in Murcia Investigation

Corruption
Rafael Mezquita (left) and José Gómez
Rafael Mezquita (left) and José Gómez
<> By Grisel Bethancourt for La Critica - The minister of the Presidency, Rafael Mezquita, will have to render a sworn declaration by means of a questionnaire prepared by the office of the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor as part of the investigation being conducted against three former Captains of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI) who were fired for having moonlighted as private security guards for David Murcia Guzmán. At the same time, prosecutors have also requested a sworn statement from the former Chief of the Direction of Judicial Investigation, José Ayú Prado, who was in charge of the orgnization when Murcia Guzmán was captured on 19 November 2008. In this judicial process Anti Corruption Prosecutors have also summoned to testify Giselle Jaimes Sánchez, the daughter of the former Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, Dalvis Xiomara Sánchez, who has been indicated as the person who was contacted by former PTJ official Álvaro Bravo who asked her to provide a list of names of SPI agents who could serve as private security guards for the Colombian businessman Murcia. (more)
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Corrupt Cops Put the Pinch on Hawaiian Tropic Reps

Corruption

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Over the weekend two representatives from the Hawaiian Tropic organization flew to Panama in order to coordinate the possibility of holding the 2009 Miss Hawaiian Tropic International contest here. Unfortunately for them, somewhere along the line they were stopped by two police officers who demanded to see their passports. They did not have their passports with them, and the police officers demanded an immediate payment (bribe) or else they threatened to haul the two executives down to Immigration and have them locked up. The two men paid a $40 dollar bribe and refused to pay any more, although the officers were demanding more money. As soon as the men got out of there they contacted members of the local Hawaiian Tropic office as well as local media to denounce what had happened. Now, it seems like Panama's chances for having the contest here just got a whole lot slimmer, thanks to a couple of corrupt cops. When this international event goes off, the Hawaiian Tropic organization spends literally millions of dollars in the host country. They pay to bring in as many as 500 people, the event gets international coverage, etc. Panama will never be ready for prime time until they find a way to grow past this petty-ante bullshit. What a shame. Man, I really (really) wanted to be able to post Hawaiian Tropic pictures every day for a couple of months, and actually have some kind of legitimate reason for doing so... (grin)

Copyright 2009 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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David Murcia Refuses To Make Statement to Panamanian Prosecutors

Corruption

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - David Murcia, the Colombian who is currently in prison in Bogota, Colombia, charged with money laundering and fraud, refused to make an official sworn statement to Panamanian prosecutors who traveled to Colombia. Exercising his options and at the advice of this lawyers, Murcia is no longer cooperating with prosecutors from either Panama or Colombia, and has requested to be extradited to the United States. Today the USA formalized their extradition request to have Murcia face money laundering charges. Panamanian prosecutors are trying to confirm the statements made by Murcia where he claims to have "invested" $6 million dollars in the political campaigns of PRD candidates Bobby Velasquez and Balbina Herrera.

Copyright 2009 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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Murcia Financial Advisor Ernesto Chong Arrested After Violating House Arrest

CorruptionBy RAFAEL PÉREZ G. and RAFAEL LUNA NOGUERA for La Prensa - Ernesto Chong Coronado, who sells race cars and who acted as the financial adviser of David Murcia Guzmán, was arrested last night in his residence in Coco del Mar and taken to the headquarters of the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) in Ancon, according to sources in the Public Ministry. The arrest took place after the Second Anti Drug Prosecutor, who has taken over the investigation, decided to cancel the measure of house arrest for something more severe, because Chong violated the house arrest order and traveled to the United States. Yesterday, after appearing in court, Chong reiterated his innocence but refused to explain why he left the country in spite of the prohibition.
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Attorney General Orders Investigation Over Chong's Departure to Miami

Corruption
Ernesto Chong
Ernesto Chong
La Critica - Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez ordered an investigation yesterday to determine if there was negligence or not in the exit of Ernesto Chong Coronado to Miami, in spite of an order of house arrest against him, and an obligation to be wearing an electronic bracelet to be able to locate him and police presence outside of his residence. Gomez accepted in principle the responsibility of the Public Ministry, which is why she ordered a disciplinary process to determine why no one sent the correct paperwork to Immigration to prevent the exit of Chong, who was a financial advisor to the now convicted Colombian David Murcia. "Before to look for responsibility outside the institution (the offices of the Attorney General) first we have to look for it internally," said Gomez. They must determine if there was negligence, something beyond negligence, or it it was a question of "time" because Chong's defense lawyers had challenged the First Anti Drug Prosecutor, José Abel Almengor. What happened was that the Prosecutor had sent the file to the offices of the Third Court and they could have paralyzed the order preventing Chong to leave the country. The departure of Ernesto Chong to Miami cause the Attorney General to announce that the precautionary measurement would be revoked. (In other words, Chong would now be placed in custody and sent to prison.) Chong flew to Miami on a Copa flight on Wednesday and returned to Panama last night on a private charter. Murcia's financial adviser avoided the press that was waiting for him at Tocumen. Hours before, Chong said he went to Miami to deal with a very important labor issue and that he had complied with all requirements for him to be able to travel, since his father went to ask for a special permission. The Director of Immigration, Clovis Sinistierra, said there was no documentation in his office that would impede Chong Coronado from leaving the country.
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Sub Director of Panama's Maritime Administration Resigns Amid Charges of Irregularities

CorruptionBy RAFAEL E. BERROCAL R. for La Prensa - The Sub Administrator of Panama's Maritime Authority, the "Autoridad Maritima de Panama" (APM), Carlos Raúl Moreno, resigned his position yesterday and denounced irregularities in the flagging of ocean going ships. Moreno said there is a "lack of control" in the consulates using intermediary companies to charge the companies registering their vessels under the Panamanian flag resulting in cases of double-billing. He said this operation "is very questionable" buy only mentioned the Panamanian consulates in Tokyo and Greece, under the control of Alfredo Martiz Fuentes and Antonio Fotis Taquis respectively. The Panamanian Chancellery did not respond to Moreno's charges. Besides Greece and Tokyo, the Panamanian consulate in New York was audited due to irregularities during the Torrijos administration but the results of that audit have not been made public. “The only way to end these practices is to order rapid and secret audits on the incoming being generated through the flagging of vessels," said Moreno. The most recent AMP report indicates that every year Panamanian consulates collect more than $200 million dollars total due to the flagging of vessels under the Panamanian flag, but the state treasury only receives $70 million because the remainder is diluted due to the payments of commissions made to individuals and consuls. The Director of the Merchant Marine of the AMP, Alfonso Castillero, accepted that a reconstruction in the consulates is needed. "It is necessary to adapt the registering of ships under the Panamanian flag to actual market conditions," he said, without commenting on the allegations of irregularities. (See Comments)
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Panamanian Investigators To Question Murcia in Colombia

Corruption El Siglo - Two Panamanian prosecutors will go to Colombia this week in order to take an official sworn statement from David Murcia Guzmán, who is under arrest in Colombia and being held on charges of money laundering and fraud. Ana Matilde Gomez, the Solicitor General of the Nation, said that due to the investigations being carried out related to the use of monies supposedly donated by David Murcia to political campaigns in Panama, it is necessary to obtain official testimony taken under oath or objective proof that can sustain or prove the accusations made by Murcia in several news publications and broadcasts against two candidates running for election in Panama. According to Gomez, they are trying to establish if Murcia really did give the money to the candidates. (more)
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More Vehicles Seized in Murcia Money Laundering Investigation

CorruptionLa Critica - Another vehicle has been added to the investigations being conducted by the offices of the Fourteenth Circuit Prosecutor into the case of supposed money laundering and fraud against the Colombian David Murcia Guzmán. The car in question is a Hummer with license plate number 480208 that was parked outside of the Miramar Intercontinental Hotel two months ago. Yesterday employees from the Public Ministry and detectives from the Direction of Judicial Investigación (DIJ) found three more cars - a Maserati, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini, that were inside of a car repair shop called Chichaco Motors Sports located on Ave. Santa Elena. So far the goods that have been seized from Murcia in Panama include several cars, a yacht named "Muppie" worth two million dollars, as well as ten motorcycles.
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David Murcia's Secret Stash in Bogota

Corruption

By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - David Murcia, the Colombian who's been indicted by the United States on charges of money laundering and who is now under arrest in Colombia, has a secret "safe house" apartment somewhere in Bogota. Since he was involved in so much illegal activity, he apparently knew eventually it would all come crashing down, so he put a considerable amount of time and effort in taking steps to ensure his future. For example, he reportedly recorded, on both audio and videotape, all of this meetings with Colombian and Panamanian politicians. He has those recordings stashed away in his secret location in Colombia, but the problem is there are now very few people he can trust. The problem is, there's more than just politically sensitive recordings stashed in this "safe house" - he reportedly also has literally millions of dollars in cash stashed in the same apartment. And, he can't get to his recordings because if he tells someone where they are, then that person will, of course, also have access to the money. So, it's a catch-22 of sorts for the money launderer. (more)

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Panama Coordinating Investigations Into Murcia Cases With The United States

Corruption
José Abel Almengor
José Abel Almengor
By Magda Maxwell for TVN Noticias - Authorities in Panama are sending several requests to the United States to ask for collaboration in their investigations here in Panama (in the cases related to Colombian David Murcia), mainly having to do with money laundering and connections to drug trafficking. The first to send a request for judicial assistance to the United States was the First Anti Drug prosecutor who hopes to receive information confirming that among the nine people who are accused of money laundering, if any of them are being investigated for drug trafficking in that country. Prosecutor José Abel Almengor said this request will be sent this Friday to the United States. Another request is being sent to Belize. According to information contained in the file on the case in the offices of the Anti Drug Prosecutor "changes and capital" a Colombian company made a $1.3 million dollar transfer to the company "Amazing" in Panama. The owners of these companies are also being investigated. The Office of the Fourteenth Public Prosecutor, in charge of the investigation into the alleged crimes of massive fraud, will also be sending a request for assistance to the United States. The prosecutor in that position, William Parodi, estimates that only in 2008 DMG could have moved close to $18 million dollars. They suspect that part of this money is still in the hands of other companies established in Panama. According to the investigations, the DMG accounts in Panama were being managed by the Colombian accounting company Cenco from Colombia. They are also waiting to receive a financial report from Cenco that should indicate how the accounts in Panama were being handled and and who benefited.

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