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Wednesday, July 30 2014 @ 05:15 PM EDT

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Panama City Mayor Denies Having Received Bribes From Lavitola

CorruptionThe Mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez used the weekly meeting of the City Council to defend herself against the allegations that were made yesterday in different local and international media, saying she supposedly received bribes. These international media reported that Ricardo Martinelli and government officials, mentioning specifically Mendez, were involved in the illegal trafficking linked to the construction of prisons in Panama. At that time, it was said Mendez said Martinelli had received from the businessman Valter Lavitola - accused of extortion and corruption for his links to the business group Finmeccanica - cash in a suitcase and that it was bribes to obtain a concession for the construction of these prisons in Panama. In response Mendez said "here we did not enter into any contract, and I never received a penny of bribery, and much less have I been a mediator for anyone." At the same time, she said these allegations are false, and it can be shown by evidence. She said they would investigate to find out where the information came from, and who is making the accusations, because it's an issue that affects many, and she's not going to allow it. (TVN)
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Lavitola, Accused Of Bribing Martinelli, Had An Official Car in Panama

Corruption
Valter Lavitola - Italian Businessman
Valter Lavitola - Italian Businessman
The former director of the the Italian newspaper Avanti, businessman Valter Lavitola, was arrested on Monday in Italy, accused of corruption and of bribing the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, enjoyed a security escort and an official car in while he was in Panama, according to testimony cited by the Italian press on Tuesday. While the Italian justice system was looking for Lavitola for alleged extortion against Berlusconi and the "misuse" of about 20 million euros of public funding for the newspaper L'Avanti, the journalist and entrepreneur enjoyed a "bodyguard, chauffeur and official car" in Panama said the President of Svemark, Velocci Mauro, one of the witnesses in the case, as revealed by local media.

As evidence of the ties between the businessman and the Panamanian President, Lavitola admitted to Velocci that the Italian justice system considered him to be a figitive since last September, but in Panama he enjoyed an "an escort and official car made available to him by Martinelli himself," said the witness.

Meanwhile the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, citing as the source Lavitola's arrest warrant signed by a judge in the preliminary investigation of Naples, says Martinelli's vacations along with two ministers and a member of the Supreme Court with their wives, on the Italian island of Sardinia from 18 to 21 August 2011, were "paid by Lavitola." For the judge Dario Gallo, the holiday was organized for "personal convenience" by Lavitola, who acted as "a statesman in disguise." During these vacations, Lavitola organized a visit to Silvio Berlusconi's summer mansion, Villa Certosa, where the then Italian Prime Minister did not attend for health reasons. After the visit, Lavitola insisted that Martinelli, who he called "brother," take photographs in the villa so they could be published in the Panamanian press. According to Gallo, the gift of the vacation to the Panamanian delegation "was not a friendly gesture but a disinterested investment for the future and past activities of corruption," he wrote. "The credit enjoyed by Lavitola with Martinelli was based on the close relationship of the journalist-entrepreneur with the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi," says the judge.

According to Italian judicial sources, Lavitola is accused of having been introduced as an "intermediary" of the president of Panama for "illicit negotiations" in the country, including the construction of several Panamanian prisons.

Official Panamanian sources acknowledged that Lavitola presented to the Panamanian executive a project for the construction of four prisons along with other Italian businessmen, but the project was rejected because "the State was not able to bear the cost."

Lavitola is accused of alleged "international corruption" along with twelve other people, including Senator Sergio de Gregorio.

Panamanian President on Monday responded to these charges, saying: "In Panama no Italian company is building not even one prison," said Ricardo Martinelli briefly via his Twitter account. (Estrella)

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Martinelli Cancels Trip to Mexico Because Of Lavitola Scandal

Corruption
Panmanamian President Ricardo Martinelli
Panmanamian President Ricardo Martinelli
The president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, today suspended his planned trip to Mexico to participate in the Latin American edition of the World Economic Forum, to "concentrate" on clarifying the rumors about his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal in Italy. "President (Martinelli) is in Panama, he is not going to travel" to the Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta, where he and four other leaders, including the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, were going to participate in the economic forum, said the Panamanian Communications Secretary Luis Eduardo Camacho. Camacho said Martinelli decided to cancel the trip to "focus on cleaning up the image" of the country against the "rumors" linking him to a bribery scheme being investigated in Italy.

This case has as its main protagonist the former director of the newspaper "Avanti" Valter Lavitola, who has been arrested in Italy accused of "blackmailing" the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. "The Panamanian government has no concern for issues" that only pertain to Italy and those who "are trying to involve Panama," but the versions circulating in local and foreign media "affects not only the image of the president, but the country," said Camacho.

The Panamanian newspaper La Prensa published Tuesday that an investigation by prosecutors in the Italian city of Naples "identifies" Martinelli "as a person who received" allegedly on orders from Lavítola, "profits and sums of cash in connection with a failed contract to build four prisons" in Panama.

"There are rumors about alleged information from Italian authorities" who are not identified, and which are "contradictory" because they speak of an alleged contract "which does not exist", and therefore, there can be no bribes, Camacho argued in a telephone interview. Martinelli denied on Tuesday that he had received any gift from Lavítola, through his Twitter account, where he also complained that as a ruler he has to "take" that they say "anything" about him. "I have not received a penny in this Lavítola mess. I don't know if the money I supposedly received in Brazil stayed in the account of Pesqueira Lavitola," wrote Martinelli this morning via his Twitter account. Also on Monday Martinelli addressed the issue on Twitter to deny that some Italian companies were building prisons in Panama.

The interior minister, Jorge Fabrega said on Monday that as part of a cooperation agreement in security signed by Panama and Italy in 2010, they explored the possibility of building prisons in three regions, but that the "Government Panama decided not to accept" the proposals made by an Italian consortium due to high costs. Fabrega also denied yesterday that Lavitola "participated in any contract in Panama," in response to local press reports according to which the former director of the newspaper served as an intermediary in negotiating the procurement of Panamanian government contracts for Italian firms. (Panama America)

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Seven Businessmen Charged In School Fiberglass Corruption Scandal

CorruptionThe Fourth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office pressed charges against seven businessmen for crimes against state property, in the preliminary proceedings they are handling for the irregularities in the awarding of contracts for the removal of fiberglass from schools in Colon and San Miguelito. Judicial sources said the prosecution decided that in this case there were other crimes in addition to the embezzlement, which opened the summary. They also accused a former official of the Ministry of Education. (Prensa)
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Journalist Accused Of Bribing President of Panama Arrested in Italy

CorruptionThe former director of the Italian newspaper Avanti, businessman Valter Lavitola, accused of corruption and of having bribed the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, was arrested Monday in Italy after being a fugitive for six months in Latin America. Lavitola was arrested at the Leonardo Da Vinci airport in Rome as he arrived on a flight from Buenos Aires and was immediately taken to Poggioreale prison in Naples (south).

According to judicial sources close to the prosecutors in Naples who are investigating the case, Henry John Woodcock and Vicenzo Piscitelli, quoted by the Italian media, Lavitola is accused of having presented himself as an "intermediary" of the President of Panama and the Panamanian authorities to conduct "unlawful negotiations" in that country, including the construction of four prisons. Lavitola is accused of alleged "international corruption" along with twelve other people, including Senator Sergio De Gregorio.

The Embassy of Panama in Italy, contacted by the AFP, declined to comment on the case.

The journalist and businessman is also accused of having organized, together with his colleague Giampaolo Tarantino, a network of luxury prostitutes to participate in the controversial private parties of Berlusconi. And also the "misuse" of about 20 million euros of public funding for the newspaper L'Avanti. The businessman was arrested on 1 September 2011 by order of the court of Naples for the alleged extortion against Berlusconi - for not revealing details of his parties with prostitutes.

According to the indictment, the two entrepreneurs initially aspired to get multi million dollar contracts overseas through Berlusconi, and to achieve business procurement through a "complex network of corruption" of Panamanian public officials and private entrepreneurs. After the scandal broke about Berlusconi's private parties with the presence of a minor, the two businessmen ended up asking for some 800,000 euros from the political leader to remain silent.

According the same source, Lavitola and his Panamanian partners, among them Francisco Martinelli, the president's cousin, have been accused of obtaining the contract from the Panamanian government for the construction of prisons, after promising the sum of $28 million dollars and a helicopter worth $8 million dollars to the head of the Latin American country. In the list of recipients of bribes are, besides the President Martinelli, the Panamanian Minister of Justice, Roxana Mendez, and other political figures, says the prosecution.

"Part of the money for the Panamanian president was delivered in a suitcase," says the indictment, which states there were two deliveries of 530,000 euros and 140,000 euros. President Martinelli and the other Panamanian officials cannot be punished by the Italian justice system and they are considered to be subjects that are "passive and not active" in corruption, according to international conventions. For the investigators, the business with Panama vanished due to Lavitola's legal problems in Italy related to Berlusconi.

According to the prosecutors in Naples, Lavitola is an "expert in blackmail" and enjoyed important contacts within Finmeccanica, the second largest public industrial group of the peninsula, an expert in sectors such as aeronautics, defense electronics, energy and transport, which in turn controls the companies Selex, Augusta Westland and Telespazio Brasile, with interests in Panama. The formalization of contracts between the government of Panama and the Italian conglomerate to acquire helicopters, radar and a digital map was made in August 2010. The newspaper Il Corriere della Sera argues that subsidiaries of Finmeccanica relied on the company Agafea, based in Panama and owned by Lavitola, for their operations. (terra.com.co)

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Local Politician Arrested - Caught Red Handed Taking A $10,000 Bribe!

CorruptionThe Municipal Councilman representing Sabanitas from the Panameñista political party, Marcos “Pepe” Valdés, was arrested yesterday by agents of the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), in the middle of a surveillance operation over an alleged extortion. Preliminary reports reveal the politician received $10,000 in marked bills in a restaurant in Sabanitas from a businessman, the payment of a bribe so he could be granted a commercial business permit. After the arrest, the municipal representative was taken to the premises of the DIJ on Calle 2 and Avenida Meléndez in the city of Colon. (Panama America)
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Former Colon Notary Has Not Been Charged In Island Land Transfer Investigation

Corruption
Nedelka Navas - Former Notary in Colon
Nedelka Navas - Former Notary in Colon
The First Notary Colon Nedelka Navas has not been charged in the case being investigated by a prosecutor for the alleged illegal transfer of an island in the district of Taboga. According to the Panama America newspaper, Navas endorsed the procedure which has been denounced by the Public Registry. But the Sixteenth Circuit Prosecutor Katya Melendez said Nedelka Navas does not appear among the four people who are being investigated, and that she has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation. The notary said he had been pressured by the executive to resign. The President said on Wednesday that yesterday (Thursday) the truth would come out about this case. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Dueling newspapers. Right now La Prensa and the Panama America are exchanging fire on a daily basis over this situation with Nedelka Navas. La Prensa is a Panameñista newspaper, while they call the Panama America the "official" newspaper of the Ricardo Martinelli administration.

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Notary Navas Approved Transfer Of Island Property Using Falsified Documents

Corruption
Nedelka Navas - Former Notary in Colon
Nedelka Navas - Former Notary in Colon
The Eleventh Court of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama enacted a criminal sequestering of the paradisiacal Urabá island, in the district of Taboga, constituted by farm number 2230, after it was detected in time that the island was going to be transferred through an allegedly fraudulent act, using the identities of eight people who had died and other forged documents. The case is related to the First Notary of Colon, Nedelka Navas, who testified to a transaction realized with falsified information, as stated in the case file being handled by the Sixteenth Prosecutor of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, who filed for the sequester of this property to prevent the fraud involving these valuable lands. The documentation was handed over to the Panama America newspaper by official sources.

This is not the first time someone has tried to fraudulently sell Urabá island, which is located next to Taboga Island. On the Internet there are more than ten deals promoting the island for sale, one of them for 80 hectares for $5 million dollars. But it was not until now that the authorities have decided to put a stop to this problem, which are involved a Notary, a buyer, and eight dead people, who they tried to pass off as being still alive.

The first abnormalities were detected in the regional office of the Public Registry in Colon, when one of the verifying officers noticed that the personal identity numbers (cedulas) of the eight people who were supposedly giving their consent for the sale, listed as co-owners, so that part of Finca 2230 could be segregated in favor of Javier Antonio Stanziola Garcés, did not match, according to case file being handled by the prosecutor.

Later it was found that previously they had tried to transfer the Finca on two earlier occasions, but the recording did not proceed due to a lack of a "paz y salvo" (good standing) from the IDAAN, and the seals from the MIVI and the "Catastro" (tax office) were lacking on the plans.

On September 8, 2011 they attempted for the third time to transfer the property in favor of Stanziola. It was then that the anomalies were found with the personal identification numbers of the eight people who were supposedly giving their consent to the transaction.

Stanziola came in to say that on some of the documents only the names of the people who were agreeing to the segregation appeared without their personal identification numbers because they were minors, raising more suspicions, as established in the documentation attached to the case file being managed by the prosecutor.

All documentation used to enter the transaction which is now under investigation for alleged fraud was presented by Rigoberto Chavez, according to the documents.

Subsequently, officials of the Public Registry identified that the eight people who gave their consent to Stanziola to segregate a piece of the property were all dead. The property has a current value of millions of dollars. This led the authorities to identify that it was the Notary Navas who formalized the judgement of intestate succession, in which the identity of the eight dead people were used, to formalize the transaction for Stanziola, as highlighted in the prosecutor's opinion.

After that, the General Director of the Public Registry, Hernando Abraham Carrasquilla, decided to present in November last year the complaint for the alleged crime against the public faith (falsification of documents in general and identity theft) in the case of the segregation of Urabá Island. "The facts proven in public deeds, beyond all doubt, appear to be fraudulent," said the Sixteenth Prosecutor of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, which is now in charge of bringing this investigation to a close.

The deceased persons whose names were used to try to transfer the property on Urabá island, with the support of the First Notary of Colon are: Felicia Herrera, María de la Cruz Herrera, Aurora Sandoval Herrera, Domingo Sandoval Herrera, Carmen Rosa Sandoval de Rivera, Alberto Sandoval Herrera, Juan Lombardi e Isaura María Anais Beluche de Sandoval. (Panama America)

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Former Director of Immigration Complains About How Her Rights Are Being Violated

Corruption
María Cristina González - Former Director of Immigration
María Cristina González - Former Director of Immigration
The former Director of the National Immigration System, Maria Cristina Gonzalez, said during her interrogation held yesterday, Tuesday, 10 April 2012, that the prosecutor was asking her questions unrelated to the case or the investigation, and they are not allowing her lawyers to conduct her defense, so therefore she believes they are violating due process. Meanwhile, Gonzalez's attorney Maria Eduarda Cordoba said she requested a ten minute recess in order to advise her client, but she was not permitted to exercise her defense, which is a violation of the law. The lawyer said in order to be able to speak in private with her client they would have to leave the offices of the Public Ministry, because there was no room where they could talk alone. Meanwhile, Gonzalez said she was being charged with forgery, and they have not conducted an handwriting analysis. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: These are the types of games and maneuvers used by defense lawyers to create space for their clients. Maria Cristina Gonzalez is the former Director of the National Immigration System who I blasted away on for months because I had been contacted directly by some of her victims. Foreigners frequently find themselves in positions of exceptional weakness, and this Maria Cristina Gonzalez would use her powers to extort money from Colombian prostitutes to the tune of about $1,500 each time they were "picked up" on the street. These women were arrested and held in the Immigration jail cells, even though all of their paperwork was in order, and they were in the country legally. I had one woman tell me Maria Cristina Gonzalez told her directly - to her face while sitting in her office - that either she paid the $1,500 or she would be deported back to Colombia and would never be allowed to return to Panama. Almost all of these women paid the money and were subsequently released - put back to work to make more money so they could be "squeezed" again. Many of them were "picked up" and extorted about twice a year. When all of this was going on I wrote directly to high ranking government officials and let them know that they were going to have massive problems with this woman, eventually. Within a couple of months she was fired, and charges were filed against her. So yeah, now she's bitching about having her "rights" violated. Who gives a damn. This is the woman who acted as an extortionist pimp for the Colombian prostitutes. No sympathy here.

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Investigations Over Fiberglass In Schools Extend To Other Provinces

Corruption Embezzlement. The Third Anti Corruption Prosecutor has opened a new investigation related to irregularities in the awarding of contracts for the removal of fiberglass from schools, this time in the provinces of Darién, Bocas del Toro and Los Santos. In this case the amount of the embezzlement detected was $117,500 dollars. Sources in the Public Ministry reported that the audit revealed damages totaling $720,000 dollars in the Darien, $316,000 in Bocas del Toro, and $139,000 in Los Santos. So far no one has been charged in this new investigation. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: This whole "fiberglass in schools" scam was one of the most notorious embezzlement schemes pulled off during the PRD administration of Martin Torrijos. First, government operatives went out and stirred up the local students, teachers, and school administrators. They would find a school classroom somewhere in the country where the gypsum ceiling needed to be repaired, where you could see the fiberglass insulation hanging out from the other side. They used the outright ignorance of these people to make them think that fiberglass insulation was somehow dangerous (like asbestos or whatever) and then the parents and teachers and students would "protest" to demand that the fiberglass be "cleaned up." Two successive former Ministers of Education then went to the National Assembly and obtained "emergency" funding to pay for these "cleanups." Then the just handed out the contracts, stole most of the money, and really didn't do anything much.

How Was This A Scam? Fiberglass insulation is not dangerous in any way. Anyone who is working with fiberglass insulation needs to wear long sleeves and gloves to protect the skin because the glass fibers can become embedded into the skin, causing irritation and itchiness. But if a part of the ceiling is falling down, all you have to do is repair the ceiling and cover up the fiberglass. There is no "danger" just because fiberglass was used as insulation when the school was constructed. In order to get hurt or injured by fiberglass you would practically have to eat it, or try to smoke it, or something else similarly ridiculous. Of course when all of this was going on I pointed these facts out, but the local news media basically either ignored it or decided to remain ignorant, because they didn't know the truth either. Of course the administration was too busy stealing public funds with their scam so they had no time to talk about the truth. Now two former PRD Ministers of Education have been charged with embezzlement, and it looks like there will eventually be more (PRD) arrests, and more (PRD) people will be charged as this investigation expands. Once again, timing is everything. If they start it now the PRD people will be going to trial right about in May 2014, the next presidential election cycle. Justice, timed for political gain. The CD will be using this scandal to remind everyone how corrupt the PRD was while they were in power. The message is clear - they stole your money before, and they will do it again if you let them. In Panama the investigation and prosecution of corruption and embezzlement goes hand in hand with political aspirations and the electoral calendar. Here, they do things for a reason, or for some tangible political gain.

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Colon Notary Refused To Be Fired Because She's Pregnant

CorruptionThe notary of Colon, Nedelka Navas Reyes, said on Tuesday she refuses to sign the document making her dismissal official, because she says firing her while she's on maternal leave is illegal. According to the notary her dismissal violates her maternity leave, which protects pregnant women from being dismissed from their jobs. Navas, who remains at her residence, was removed through an Executive Order issued on 15 March 2012 and published in the Official Gazette on 5 April 2012, whereby the president Ricardo Martinelli said her appointment was "groundless." However, the document does not say why she was dismissed. Article 106 of Chapter II of the Labor Code that talks about working women and children, states: "A woman who is in a state of pregnancy can only be fired from her job for cause, and with prior judicial authorization." Attorneys in Colon, among them the Vice President of the National College chapter of the province, Roberto Laguna, protested the dismissal of the notary Nedelka Navas Reyes, considering it to be arbitrary and illegal. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: It's political. She was fired because she's a Panameñista who refused to cooperate with an investigation into allegations that corrupt Panameñista politicians were squeezing money out of the Notary Publics they hired after the 2009 elections.

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Former Director of Immigration's Lawyers Postpone Corruption Interrogation

Corruption
María Cristina González  - Former Director of Immigration in Panama
María Cristina González - Former Director of Immigration in Panama
Defense lawyers for the former Director of the National Immigration Service, Maria Cristina Gonzalez, asked the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor's Office suspended the interrogation of their client. According to the lawyers, the first questions posed to Gonzalez were not in line with the charges allegedly linked to her. The lawyers argued the prosecutor was violating Gonzalez's constitutional guarantees, and they would wait until she was called again by the prosecution.

Gonzalez arrived at the Avesa building which houses the offices of the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor at 9:15 am this morning. She left from the office at 11:29 am. Previously, the former immigration official told the media that she went to the offices of the Attorney General to cooperate with the authorities. Gonzalez is accused of corruption and influence peddling for allegedly selling visas to citizens from India, China and Cuba. (Prensa)

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Nine Government Vehicles Seized For Improper Use During Holiday Weekend

CorruptionOfficials of the Comptroller General's Office reported the retention of 9 staff cars nationwide, the results of an operations started on Thursday, 5 April, for Easter. A total of 225 government vehicles were inspected, and the nine that failed the inspection were seized because they were not in compliance with Executive Decree 124 of November 27, 1996 that regulates the good use, management, control and registration of official and rented vehicles for the State, the entity reported Saturday in a press release.

Among the reasons for withholding official vehicles are: no license plates, unlicensed drivers, improper use of vehicle, and vehicles parked in private homes. Executive Order 124 provides that official vehicles can only circulate with public servants who are in need of the service, who will carry a safe-conduct pass indicating their names, date, place of mission, name of others in the party, and the identification card of all.

Circular number 16-2012-DC-DFG reiterates the provisions in force in this area, all representatives of the three branches of government, decentralized entities, public universities, public corporations where the government has control of capital and other government agencies for the proper use of state cars. The circular suggests refrain from authorizing official missions during and after the Holy Week, on the pretext of the need for official activities. State vehicles, including those with hidden plates and rented vehicles, must remain in the parking lots of the institutions concerned.

The Comptroller General maintains more than 20 checkpoints in the different provinces, as well as mobile units that are in search of the vehicles denounced by citizens through the public hotline. In the report issued on Friday, seven vehicles had been retained nationwide and 219 state vehicles had been inspected. (Estrella)

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Former Director of Public Registry Will Be Interrogated

CorruptionThe third anti-corruption prosecutor, Maruquel Castroverde, brought charges for "crimes against the public administration" against the former director of the Public Registry Luis Barria, for charging "kickbacks" in the approval of government contracts. Castroverde said he has set 10 April to take a sworn statement from the former official, but that the suspect, through his lawyers, has requested to be released on bail. Juan Ramon Malivern, Barria's lawyer, said the case has become a media circus against his client, and that members of the government are behind this smear campaign. The investigations in this case were initiated following the complaint filed by the lawyer Ernesto Aguila on 14 March 2012 before the Public Ministry. Barria was accused of extortion, forgery of documents, and for charging "kickbacks." (Prensa)
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Former Director of IFARHU (PRD) Called To Trial For Embezzlement

CorruptionThe Sixth Criminal Court decided to deny an extension to the Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor for further investigation for the alleged commission of the crime of embezzlement by former director of the Institute for Training and Development of Human Resources (IFARHU), Samuel Buitrago. As a result of this decision, the court set for May 25th, the preliminary hearing against Buitrago and 31 other people. These include the former director of Grants, Sarkis Valencia, the scholar Gustavo Benitez and others. In the prosecutor's opinion, prepared by the former prosecutor Yolanda Austin, they requested that Buitrago be called to trial for having authorized grants without full documentation. The investigation of this event began with an audit report of the Comptroller General of the Directorate of Scholarships. (Panama America)
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Prosecutor Appeals Lower Court's Decision in Ernesto Perez Balladares Money Laundering Case

Corruption
Ernesto Pérez Balladares - Former President of Panama
Ernesto Pérez Balladares - Former President of Panama
The Special Organized Crime Prosecutor Marcelino Aguilar, presented before the Second Tribunal the substantiation of his appeal against the dismissal the court had issued in favor of the former President Ernesto Perez Balladares, in the process opened against him for money laundering. In recent days, Aguilar said his appeal would be based on that there is sufficient evidence to call Perez Balladares and fourteen others who have been charged in this process to trial. This is the last battle the prosecutor will have to win this case, since he has lost twice. On 29 April 2011 the Ninth Criminal Court decided to end the process for good, and on 6 January 2012 the Second Tribunal upheld the lower court's acquittal, after the prosecution appealed that decision. This investigation was initiated following a report from the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), for alleged irregularities in transactions between bank accounts held by the former president and the company Lucky Games. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: In my estimation the decisions that have been handed down in this case to date have been based much more on politics than on the evidence, truth, or facts. In Panama with high stakes, politically charged cases such as this, the evidence really does not matter all that much. What matters most is - which team (political party) controls which court. The lower court decisions that have already been handed down - first to acquit and basically throw the case out, and then a Superior court decision on appeal to uphold the lower court's initial decision - were really not much of a surprise. In fact I predicted a very long time ago that all of the action and decisions in the lower courts will merely serve as warm-ups for the main event, when this case eventually reaches the Supreme Court. For example, if the government's prosecutors had won either in the 9th Criminal or the 2nd Superior, then the lawyers for Ernesto Perez Balladares would have appealed to the Supreme Court as well. So no matter what happens, the case is headed for the Supreme Court.

And who controls the Supreme Court? The Cambio Democratico political party and Ricardo Martinelli. And why is the government going after Ernesto Perez Balladares? Is it because they really don't like corruption? No, of course not. It's a combination of politics - to score a conviction against a high ranking PRD politician on the eve of the May 2014 election - and thanks to "guilt by association" then all of the PRD will be tainted. And it's also an old personal grudge between Ernesto Perez Balladares and Ricardo Martinelli. And remember, Panama's Attorney General is Jose Ayu Prado, who started this case against Ernesto Perez Balladares when he was the Special Organized Crime Prosecutor. And remember as well that the former Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez was fired (well, leveraged out of her position) because she would not go after Ernesto Perez Balladares. This entire game goes marching forward, slowly but surely, step by step. And with this new appeal, it will (finally) be reaching the Supreme Court - where Ernesto Perez Balladares simply does not stand a chance, due to the politics involved.

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Minister Favored Another CD Party Member With Contracts

CorruptionFive companies related to a senior ruling member of the Cambio Democratico (CD) political party were favored by the Minister of Health, Franklin Vergara, with direct contracts to collect garbage in Colón, and to distribute drinking water in tanker trucks in the provinces of Darien, the Eastern part of Panama, and Coclé; work normally carried out by municipalities and the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage Systems, respectively. These contracts, amounting to more than $1.7 million dollars, were approved between April 2010 and November 2011 on the grounds of "obvious urgency" and given to companies linked to Carlos Bryan Torres from Colón, who together with Minister Vergara, is a member of the Honor and Discipline Council of the CD political party, according to information from the Electoral Tribunal.

To elude the obligatory bidding process established by Law 22 of 2006 on Public Procurement, Minister Vergara argued reasons of "urgency" and "emergency" as appropriate. However, the "urgency" cited as a reason to hire directly to collect garbage in Colón was not supported.

The company Aguaseo SA, which holds the concession to collect garbage in 14 districts of this province, says they do not face complaints over the service they provide, nor reports form the areas about problems. However, the Ministry of Health approved three contracts for refuse collection in Colón worth more than half a million dollars.

With regard to the supply of drinking water using tanker trucks in the Darién, Coclé, and the Eastern part of the province of Panama, Vergara justified the contracts on the grounds that there are communities that do not have this service, without specifying which ones. In this case the contracts involved have a value of $1.2 million dollars.

It was not possible to get a reaction from those responsible for the Ministry of Health.

When consulted, the businessman and member of the ruling CD political party Bryan Torres said there was no conflict of interest in the case, and he justified the direct contracts citing "notorious emergencies and urgencies that are well supported, all social and humanitarian." (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: When you read stories such as this, you should keep in the back of your mind the political truth and fact - that about 55% of the people in Panama are now members of political parties who do not support Ricardo Martinelli or his teammates in the Cambio Democratico political party. Much of what is reported in the local media is designed to cause problems, create a scandal, or in some what make the CD look bad, no matter what. In cases such as this, I'm sure there were protests or something in Colon back at about the time these contracts were let for garbage collection. So, the government reacted quickly and hired someone to pick up the trash, because the Municipal government of Colon was not doing their jobs properly. And I'm sure at the time the political detractors were slamming away at Martinelli and the CD, complaining about how the garbage was backing up. Now they are complaining about the way they acted to take care of the problem. With the distribution of water - same thing. Remember when the rains and mudslides clogged up the water treatment plant? When people don't have safe drinking water that quickly becomes and "emergency" or and "urgent situation." The government reacted. And what about the charges that the CD government gave the direct contracts to other CD party members? What, you think they're going to give the business to Balbina Herrera or Juan Carlos Varela? Anyway, my point is this - almost everything in the news that's attacking the government is politically motivated. The election campaign for the hearts and minds of the electorate started a long time ago. Everyone, on all sides, is trying to find a way to get a toehold, some traction, a grip, an edge, or a way to make some headway to damage their opponents. It's how the game is played. And by the way, no one is going to do anything or investigate anything, because what Minister Vergara did is now "standard practice." The CD guys are giving the money and the contacts to other CD guys - and that's why the PRD and the Panameñistas are pissed. "No soup for you!"

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Italian Lawmakers Continue To Question Panama - Finmeccanica Deal

CorruptionAlthough the Panamanian authorities - both the Public Ministry and the Executive - have closed the Finmeccanica case, both authorities in Naples and the parliamentary body in Italy continue the investigation. In the upper house of Parliament the Independent Senator Elio Lannutti continues to question, and during a speech at the Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Italian Senate, the purchase of radars, helicopters and digital mapping services for $250 million dollars made ​​by Panama from the joint venture conglomerate Finmeccanica. "I'll take care of corruption and have noticed that in the case of Finmeccanica and Panama there are strong indications of corruption," said the senator in an interview with this newspaper. On 2 February, Senator Lannutti reacted strongly, rejecting the statements of the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, who formalized a business letter sent by Finmeccanica to endorse the transparency of the transaction. Today, he is pressing for a decision by the Italian Government on the subject. "That was not an official response and I have not seen evidence that the Italian Government has given a response [to Panama]," he said. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The government of Panama under the administration of Ricardo Martinelli is not about to do any serious investigation of the Finmeccanica deal, with an eye towards corruption. Because (obviously) if there was any corruption in that deal, they were the ones who were corrupt. No, the only way this whole thing might get investigated for real is if it starts in Italy, or if the CD loses the election in 2014. Then there might be some kind of an investigation that will take decades to slowly make its way through the system, just like the CEMIS case. Corruption exists in the Panamanian system of government, because the system of government was built by the politicians, and they are the ones who are corrupt, and it's designed to allow them to get away with stuff. They are all the same - it's cultural - there is absolutely no difference between the PRD, Panameñistas, or the CD. The only difference is, who's turn is it to drink from the well.

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Investigation Advancing on MEDUCA Forged Documents Case

CorruptionMore than 80 falsified appointment documents came from an office that is not related to the Ministry of Education (Meduca), or the Human Resources Department, and are part of the investigations being conducted in the case of false resolutions, confirmed Dimas Guevara, the Auxiliary Prosecutor. On 27 February, at the beginning of the school year, the Ministry of Education filed a complaint in the prosecution for forgery of the signature of the Regional Director of Education, Maria Elena Gil de Montaner. Guevara said he had to investigate on the computers owned by Meduca to determine if there were officials of the institution involved in this case. The prosecutor considered that, according to his investigation, it is possible that those involved are part of an organization of forgery. Guevara said the names will be revealed at the end of the week. (Siglo)
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Afú Accuses Martin Torrijos Of Having Received $7 Million In Bribes (CEMIS Case)

CorruptionThe National Assembly Deputy from the ruling Cambio Democratico (CD) political party, Carlos Tito Afú, accused the former president Martin Torrijos of having received $7 million dollars as part of the bribes paid to obtain the ratification of the Multimodal Industrial and Service Center (CEMIS) in 2001. In an interview with this newspaper (La Prensa) yesterday, Afú accused Torrijos of being the "architect" in this corruption case, and he called for a confrontation with the former president to "tell him the truth to his face." Afú said he has presented sufficient evidence against Torrijos in this process that has been dragging on for eleven years.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the former president, Eric Rodriguez Auerbach, said Torrijos would not comment, but he did request the transcript of the remarks made by Afú.

Filings Delay The Case: The preliminary investigation of the CEMIS case has virtually stagnated in the Supreme Court, as a consequence of the presentation of six requests filed since 2010 that have not been resolved by the substantiating magistrate. The previous reporting judge Virgilio Trujillo ended his term on December 31, without resolving them, and now the new substantiating judge Hernán De Leon filed a disability, alleging that his family has a friendship with Deputy Carlos Afu, who has been accused in the case, and that he worked in a law firm that provided service to the former president Torrijos, who is also mentioned in the investigation. (Prensa)

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Afu Accuses Martin Torrijos (In CEMIS Corruption Scandal)

CorruptionThe CEMIS is like a skeleton in the closet. The biggest corruption scandal of the past decade revived yesterday in a confrontation in which Deputy Carlos Afu turned on the fan and accused the former president Martin Torrijos of being the mastermind of everything, and that therefore he would unmask him. "You are well entangled (in the CEMIS scandal). Hey, Martin Torrijos, you were the one who did all this ... the money came from your home," said Afu to end a confrontation with the former lawmaker Mateo Castillero, in which he asked the former president, Balbina Herrera, Laurentino Cortizo, and other members of the PRD to submit to a polygraph exam. "They are all afraid," he said.

In the hearing realized in the Supreme Court before the prosecuting judge Abel Zamorano, Afu attacked Torrijos. "He called Mateo Castillero for him to go get the money in the Commission on Drugs, where the lawmaker Miguel Bush was waiting for him in the reverted areas," he said. "Matel gave Bush the big box (with the money), which he dropped because he was so nervous. Later Bush called his assistant Roberto Silvestri to take the box to the Budget Committee," added Afu.

Carlos Afu - National Assembly Deputy, Member of the Cambio Democratico political party (now), formerly PRD - At the center of the CEMIS scandal.

For his part, the former lawmaker Mateo Castillero identified Deputy Carlos Afu a "liar> and said with this he is committing a "despicable" act by trying to link Torrijos with CEMIS. According Castillero, his former co-party member is doing an errand for someone else, and he denied links with the CEMIS. Castillero claimed that Afu's charges arose after Balbina Herrera identified him as one of those who sold out to ratify the appointment of the Supreme Court judges Alberto Cigarruista and Winston Spadafora.

Polygraph invalid: James Bernard, a lawyer for Torrijos, explained that legally the polygraph is not valid in the legal system, noting that the testimony provided by Afu have not been supported with evidence that demonstrates its veracity. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Tis the season. We are now about two years away from the next round of elections in Panama, which will be held in May 2014. Any legal action in Panama takes at least two years to work its way through the legal system, so if the administration of Ricardo Martinelli wants to cause political damage to the opponents, now is the time to pull the trigger. This CEMIS case is aimed directly at the PRD, and you can expect other action to be taken against the most prominent Panameñistas, such as Jose Blandon, for example. The only thing that matters for the Cambio Democratico is to win the 2014 election. It's great if they have good evidence and cases. Lacking that, they can make some stuff up. Remember how David Murcia's accusations of having paid bribes to Balbina Herrera and Bobby Velasquez sank their election chances in early 2009? Expect a repeat in 2014. The details will be different, but the strategy (and the tactics, generally speaking) will be the same. To most Panamanian ears, "CEMIS" means "PRD corruption." Therefore, the CD will be banging this drum loudly and frequently from now until May 2014, in order to do as much damage as possible to the PRD as a whole, and individual politicians specifically.

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Afu and Castillero Testify Before Supreme Court in CEMIS Case

CorruptionThe National Assembly Deputy and member of the Cambio Democratico political party Carlos Afu, and the former PRD lawmaker Mateo Castillero, came this Thursday, March 22, to the Supreme Court (CSJ) to undergo cross-examination in the case of alleged bribes to approve the Multimodal Center, Industrial and Services (CEMIS) contract in 2001. The scandal broke in 2001 when Afu, who was them a PRD legislator, denounced the alleged payment of bribes to approve the CEMIS project. Deputy Afu said Castillero was present when he received the money on 29 December 2001. Meanwhile, Castillero told local media that Afu "keeps lying." "It seems he is doing the errand of someone to involve Martin Torrijos (Panama's president between 2004 and 2009) in a case in which neither he nor I have anything to do," he said. In addition, Afu - upon leaving the Supreme Court - asked for all of those involved in the case to submit to a polygraph exam. He mentioned that among people who should be subjected to a polygraph are: Miguel Bush, Roberto Silvestre, Balbina Herrera, Martín Torrijos, and Laurentino Cortizo. According to the Deputy from the CD party, no one dares to say they will submit to the test, because they know who is telling the truth. The CEMIS case was reopened by the Supreme Court in July 2009 after six years of being closed by that organ of state. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: While the PRD was in charge, and while Martin Torrijos was president, the CEMIS case was kept on ice. The original investigation started during the administration of Mireya Moscoso (1999 - 2004). Then when Torrijos took over (2004 - 2009) the investigation was shut down. Once Ricardo Martinelli came to power (2009 - 2014) the case was reopened. This is the case the administration of Ricardo Martinelli will be using to cause political harm and damage to the PRD in the run-up to the 2014 election. And yeah, they paid a whole lot of money (cash) in order to get the CEMIS law passed. Everyone knows it already, but it just has to be made official, eventually. The "Justice" system in Panama is heavily politicized, and high profile, politically motivated cases such as this are most often decided more due to politics than law, evidence, and facts. It's like "yeah, yeah - testimony, evidence, law, proof - blah, blah, blah ... whatever, you're guilty, because we don't like you."

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Two More People Charged In Juan Hombron Land Scandal

Corruption The Fifth Circuit Prosecutor brought charges for crimes against the environment against two more people as part of the investigation into the alleged irregularities in the award of 54 hectares of land Juna Hombrón, Cocle, said a source in the Public Ministry yesterday. According to the informant, the prosecutor Ruth Morcillo Saavedra signed last 14 March 2012 a resolution of inquiry against Jose Fernandez and Jose Gutierrez, both of whom acquired possessory rights of the coastal lands involved in the case.

In the record, the two defendants are listed as individuals to whom the former Director of Land Titling of the National Authority of Land Management (ANATI) Anabelle Villamonte gave free land in John Hombrón.

The source explained the prosecutor's decision arose after two reports of audit realized by the Comptroller General of the Republic were entered into the record, dated November 2011 and January 2012, which indicated neither Fernandez nor Gutierrez complied with the formalities to obtain possessory rights. According to the source, the accused will be interrogated this week, but did not specify the date. The Second Criminal Court granted them bail to avoid arrest.

An article published in the La Prensa newspaper in November 2011 revealed that Gutierrez was benefited by Villamonte with the free allocation of 3.6 hectares of land, which he sold two months later to the company Laufen Holding Corporation for $132,000, almost the same assessed value given by the former ANATI official.

For his part, Fernandez was granted 2.6 hectares of land on 12 January 2011, the same day as Gutierrez. He also quickly sold the land to the company Homron Empresas de Inversiones, S.A., which has the same directors as Laufen Holding Corporation, the company to which Gutierrez sold his land in Juan Hombrón.

Fernandez and Villamonte appear in the company La Reina del Hogar, registered on 20 May 2010, according to this newspaper.

The Comptroller's auditors found the allotments of protected national land incurred the violation of Law 80 of 2009, which regulates the recognition of possession rights on islands and coasts, and environmental regulations such as Law 41 of 1998 about the general environment.

With Gutierrez and Fernandez there are now six defendants accused by the Public Ministry in this case; namely Anabelle Villamonte, Eric Lamboglia, the head of the legal department at ANATI, as well as José Félix de la Cruz and Mario Ruiz Arrieta, who are in charge of the mapping section of that entity. All are free thanks to bonds, and precautionary measures. (Prensa)

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Former Director of Immigration Charged With Forgery, Influence Peddling, Corruption

CorruptionThe Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor's Office filed charges against the former Director of the National Immigration Service, Maria Cristina Gonzalez, for the alleged commission of various crimes such as forgery, influence peddling, and corruption of officials. The allegations are linked to alleged irregularities in the issuing of visas for citizens of Cuba, China and Bangladesh. Lizett Chevalier Rios, Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor, said Gonzalez Ruiz will be interrogated next week in the Public Ministry. The prosecutor has been conducting investigations for complaints against the former officer since 2010. Maria Cristina Gonzalez was replaced in the Immigration Department by the former Director of the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), Javier Carrillo, after she resigned amid allegations of irregularities. (TVN)

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Tribunal Authorizes Investigation Of Judge's Bank Accounts

CorruptionThe Second Tribunal authorized the Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor to review the bank accounts of the Sixth Civil Judge, Victor Rene Garcia. This was part of the investigation against him for the alleged commission of an offense against public administration; specifically, the seizing of $1 million dollars without authorization from a bank account of businessman Marc Harris. With this proceeding, the prosecution wants to determine if Garcia received money from the illegal seizure of funds from this account. This investigation began in March 2011.

Judge Garcia was also investigated by this same prosecutor for an alleged irregularity in the succession of an estate without a will, but two weeks ago, the prosecutor Chevalier asked for the provisional dismissal of the crime, because he thought there was not sufficient evidence to prove the alleged abuse of authority. This case was denounced by Carla Regno Francucci because, supposedly, Judge Garcia threw out an expert witness who had testified, without issuing the corresponding resolution. In addition, Judge Garcia had already been investigated by the third anti-corruption prosecutors for the same offense. (Panama America)

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Oklahoma firm fined for paying bribes in Mexico, Panama

Corruption An Oklahoma company that provides aircraft maintenance services agreed Wednesday to pay an $11.8 million criminal penalty for bribing officials in Mexico and Panama to obtain business. The Justice Department said BizJet, a Tulsa firm, had bribed officials at four Mexican state and federal agencies and the Panama civil aviation authority. It said top officials at BizJet "orchestrated, authorized and approved" of the payoffs. BizJet said in a statement its German parent company, Lufthansa Technik AG, discovered the corruption, voluntarily notified U.S. authorities and "fully cooperated" in the U.S. investigation.

The case is the latest against U.S. companies and foreign firms with a U.S. presence that operate in Latin America and are found in violation of the far-reaching Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Other cases in recent years have involved bribe payments in Costa Rica, Argentina and Brazil.

The Mexican attorney general's office issued a statement saying the BizJet payoff occurred between 2004 and 2009, and that a BizJet sales manager had gone into hiding. It said it had identified contracts by the firm amounting to $20 million and some 50 million pesos ($3.9 million) and that an intermediary received "approximately $2 million U.S. dollars" to pay off officials.

Mexico said it identified six "public servants" who may have received payoffs. BizJet says on its website it offers "world-class engine and airframe maintenance" as well as interior refurbishment and avionics installations for jets and helicopters.

The Justice Department said in order to obtain contracts, BizJet employees paid bribes to officials in the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa as well as the federal police and the agency that oversees President Felipe Calderon's fleet of aircraft. It said U.S. prosecutors would defer prosecution of BizJet executives for three years, and if the company cooperates with a probe and heightens compliance efforts, the threat of criminal charges would end. The Justice Department praised BizJet and its parent company for "extraordinary cooperation, including conducting an extensive internal investigation, voluntarily making U.S. and foreign employees available for interviews, and collecting, analyzing and organizing voluminous evidence and information for the department."

The Justice Department did not provide details of BizJets' bribes in Panama, except to say that the illegal payment had gone to the Panamanian Civil Aviation Authority.

Jay Holtmeier, an attorney at the New York City office of the WilmerHale law firm, said Lufthansa Technik "itself discovered these issues as a result of an internal audit." Holtmeier said employees involved in the bribe-taking "are no longer with the company."

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a sweeping 1977 law, has snared several major companies in recent years with operations in Mexico and further south. Under a plea agreement in September 2010, a Swiss conglomerate, ABB Ltd., and two of its subsidiaries agreed to pay fines for bribing officials of Mexico's state-owned electric utility in order to obtain contracts worth $81 million in revenue. Two Mexicans were indicted the same month for allegedly buying a $297,000 Ferrari sports car and a $1.8 million yacht for electric utility officials in exchange for obtaining contracts for a company based in Azusa, Calif. Last year, two tobacco leaf merchants based in North Carolina and Virginia faced action over bribes paid in Thailand and Kyrgyzstan, in one case using a subsidiary in Brazil.

In a sign of the expansive reach of the U.S. anti-corruption act, Alcatel-Lucent, a French telecommunications giant, and three non-U.S. subsidiaries, one of which had an office in Miami, were accused of paying bribes in Costa Rica to get more than $300 million in contracts. In late 2010, Alcatel-Lucent and its subsidiaries paid $137 million in U.S. penalties. A German conglomerate, Siemens AG, and two South American subsidiaries paid a record $800 million in U.S. penalties in 2008 for bribes on contracts in Venezuela and Argentina. The sole basis for U.S. involvement in the case were two meetings by company executives and consultants in New York City and the use of U.S. banks to make payments.

Despite the payment, the Justice Department in December brought civil and criminal charges against eight top former Siemens employees for what it described as a decade-long bribery scheme. The charges underscored the department's interest in prosecuting executives for bribe-paying as well as imposing fines on their companies.

Editor's Comment: When this story hit the wire last night I blasted it to my contacts at TVN. So, who got paid in Panama? How much was paid in bribes? Is the Attorney General going to open an investigation? And what services was BizJet providing in Panama, anyway. I don't think I'm going to have a whole lot of time to dedicate to this, and at this point I have more questions than answers.

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Criminal Complaint For Extortion and Corruption Filed Against Luis Barría - Former Director of Public Registry

CorruptionThe lawyer Ernesto Águila filed a complaint this morning against the former Director of the Public Registry, Luis Barria, for extortion, forgery of documents, and for receiving bribes. Águila said Barria tried to force him to pay a bribe for some public registry contracts, and for having sequestered some property which he owns, lands which were subsequently released. In the process of the release of such farms, Águila, who is a member of the Panameñista political party, also said he noticed there were falsified documents that had been entered into the Public Registry that were going to be used in an attempt to sell the confiscated land. "While investigating the scriptures we realized the three deeds were with the same number and the same date with three different acts, in which the three scriptures seem to be false," explained Águila at a press conference held at the Atalaya Room of the Hotel Roma.

Águila announced the complaints were filed in the DIJ and with the Anti Corruption Prosecutor for falsifying documents with the intent of using those documents in order to sell the land. Although the allegations made ​as an entrepreneur, Águila said he would request that the Panameñista political party expel Barria, who is also in the party, after the corruption investigation is started. Barria resigned as director of Public Registry on 30 August 2011, for personal reasons, according to what he said to president Ricardo Martinelli. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Yeah, there was all kind of goofy crap going on at the Public Registry under Barria. He immediately abandoned ship on 30 August 2011 when the political alliance between the Panameñistas and the Cambio Democratico broke up, because you can only get away with that kind of stuff when you've got solid political cover. His cover melted away so he insta-hauled ass. Now, of course, he's exposed to investigation and prosecution. So, anyone who had land stolen from them between 1 July 2009 and 30 August 2011 - head's up. Águila just rang the dinner bell. Oh, and the way this works - you contact Águila and compare notes to see if the same people or same techniques were used to steal your land. Then you can "cross pollinate" the files. His case makes yours stronger in court, yours makes his stronger in court, etc. Happy hunting.

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Martinelli Admits He Lacks The Power To Jail Corrupt Politicians

CorruptionPresident Ricardo Martinelli said today the only campaign promise he can not fulfill is to put corrupt politicians in jail, because that is an issue that belongs to another organ of state, the judicial system. Martinelli said everyone knows who the corrupt politicians are, and they have done a lot of damage to the country, and there they all are, however he as the President cannot do anything about it. Martinelli President referred to his campaign promises during the ceremony to hand over new computers to the residents of Curundú.

When asked if he would request that Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino reconsider his resignation, President Martinelli responded by saying that both Mulino and Gustavo Perez have been excellent members of his team and he needs the help of both. Mulino submitted his letter of resignation on Friday after Perez stated that the draft law to create a new disciplinary system would not go forward, and then Martinelli announced he would withdraw the proposal from the Cabinet Council, which had already authorized the Minister of Security to submit the new draft law to the National Assembly of Deputies for consideration. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Yes, Martinelli lacks the power to jail corrupt politicians today. However when the Fifth Chamber is activated (well, it's already activated - when Martinelli nominates the three new judges) then the Supreme Court will be able to go after corrupt members of the National Assembly. Right now there's a sort of "stand off" between the National Assembly and the Supreme Court - each one has the powers to investigate the other. They are all corrupt, so therefore the end result is that no one investigates anything. What ever happened to CEMIS? One of Martinelli's primary campaign promises was to "put the corrupt politicians in jail." But, he can't actually put anyone in jail, even for jaywalking. That's the job of the Public Ministry and the Judiciary.

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PRD Lawyers File Complaint Against National Police Over Jaén's Arrest

CorruptionA group of lawyers who are members of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) will file a complaint against the National Police and the government of Ricardo Martinelli, with allegations of abuse of authority, abuse of office, and impeding a lawyer from performing his duties, over the illegal arrest of Lic. Valentín Jaén. This legal action will be presented next week. At a press conference accompanied by members of National Executive Council of the PRD and the Legal Sector (PRD lawyers,) Valentín Jaén said they would file a complaint against Captain Isis Del Cid, a member of the Police, for having illegally deprived him of his freedom for 10 hours. Jaen said his arrest was politically tinged and came as the result of recent allegations the Legal Sector of the PRD brought against the abuses and illegalities of the government. He said during his arrest, the Captain laughed. Jaen said he will continue denouncing human rights violations, acts of corruption, administrative arrogance, and demanded respect for the laws and constitutional guarantees. For his part, Secretary General of the PRD, Mitchell Doens, said the police action committed against the attorney Jaen was "outrageous" and that the PRD notes with danger, because some sections of the National Police are getting out of hand. (Critica)

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Police Chief Slowly Purging Corruption From The Ranks in Panama

Corruption The National Police Chief Gustavo Perez said on Tuesday, March 6, that this institution is in a debugging process. He said about 2,000 police officers have left the ranks of the organization, in the two and a half years of his administration. According to Perez, these types of people are getting out of the police force because they are not consistent with what both the Police and the community are looking for. The police chief explained that these dismissals have taken place because "we always seek the best for the community, for the citizens We are building professional police officers," he added. However, when he finds a police officers who has had many complaints filed against him in the Office of Office of Professional Responsibility, then he must be eliminated, he said. "No one fires an employee because they are good, that does not happen in any company," he said. The rank and file of the police officers and officials have said it's time to get these people out of the organization, explained the police chief in TVN Noticias. According to Perez, there are police commissioners and deputy commissioners who have up to hive homes, and in other cases there are police officers who have as many as ten cars, which they could not justify. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Creating and fostering and fomenting professionalism in a fundamentally non-professional force is a very difficult task indeed. It's safe to say that the National Police force in Panama is becoming "less corrupt" as time goes by. If you'll notice when the drug busts happen and hundreds of kilos of cocaine are seized, very often the bad guys will be carrying thousands of dollars in cash with them as well. That's to pay bribes - they will just hand over the wad of cash in order to be let go and not arrested. Also, in Panama a police "commissioner" or "sub commissioner" is a name of a rank, not a position.

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