Site Meter
Send Us An Email
Panama Guide

Welcome to Panama Guide
Friday, April 18 2014 @ 06:34 AM EDT

View Printable Version

Supreme Court Lifts "Sequester" From Parcel of Land in Paitilla

CorruptionThe Second Anti Corruption Prosecutor Lizzett Chevalier, confirmed that the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court issued its judgment which allows the lifting of the seizure of the parcels if land in Paitilla, an action requested by her office late last month to the Supreme Court, in order to expedite the notarial process to legally return the land to state ownership. In August last year the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court authorized the seizure of the parcel of land, measuring more than one hectare in size, as part of a request made by the Attorney General's office which initiated the investigation in the case. The Prosecutor said it now falls to the Public Registry to continue this process until completion.

In this case several suspects are being investigated for "crimes against the public administration and public faith" over alleged irregularities in the granting of the ownership of the land; those being investigated are the florist César Segura, the lawyer Carlos Pérez Ferreria, and the former Director of Regulation (Land Titling) of the National Authority for the Administration and Titling of Lands (ANATI), Anabelle Villamonte.

In December 2010 the florist Cesar Segura signed an agreement to formally resign from any claims of ownership for this parcel of land which had been illegally transferred to him. On Monday the prosecutor had sent their "prosecutor's opinion" to the court on this case. (Telemetro)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

MEDUCA Officials Implicated in Falsification of Documents

CorruptionThe Deputy Minister of Education, Jose Herrera Kivers, recognized the participation of two officials of the institution in falsifying more than 80 "acts of taking possession" for teachers to fill nonexistent vacancies. The resolutions had the forged signature of the Regional Director of Education of Panama Center, Maria Elena de Montaner. Herrera Kivers explained there are two clearly identified persons who participated in the crime, and they are well aware of the procedure and appointment process for vacancies. The Ministry of Education filed a complaint with the Public Ministry to continue with the investigations. (Critica)

María Elena de Montaner Presented The Complaint Before The Public Ministry

Editor's Comment: Every year the Ministry of Education issues a resolution for each and every public school teacher. It's a pretty screwed up system - the teachers are selected and assigned to work at a particular school, to fill a designated vacancy, to fill a real job that actually exists. The teachers don't just go back to the same school year in and year out, and their assignment can change every year, or they might not even be rehired for that matter. However apparently this network of forgers allegedly created fake resolutions with forged signatures to appoint people to fill teaching positions that don't actually exist. According to the Minister of Education Lucy Molinar they detected the exact same thing happening last year, being done by the same people. They just put a stop to it but never followed up to file the criminal complaints. Well, this year they did. It's always a massive cluster at the Ministry of Education every year when it's "hire the teachers" time - because the government runs the system, so the hiring and appointments becomes politicized. And once again, there's Lucy Molinar doing the right thing, cleaning house, putting things right. I want her to run the whole damn show some day...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

PRD Party Leader Files Complaint Over Illegal Wiretaps

CorruptionThe secretary general of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) filed a criminal complaint with the Attorney General's Office against those found responsible in the Security Council in relation to the case of interception of his phone calls. Doens was accompanied by lawyers Zulay Rodríguez y Olga Gólcher, both party members. The document presented indicates the Attorney General's Office issued a letter on 15 February 2012, which states that not only were the conversations of opposition politicians Luis Ernesto Carles and Mitchell Doens illegally recorded, but they were also uploaded to YouTube. Furthermore, Luis Ernesto Carles, the former Vice Minister of Government and a member of the Panameñista political party, asked the Attorney General Jose Ayu Prado to perform a visual inspection of the Security Council, because they are possibly responsible for the interception of the calls. (Critica)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Jaime Salas Will Face Trial For Money Laundering

CorruptionAfter two years and eight months of investigation against the former Municipal Engineer Jaime Salas, who has been charged with money laundering, on Thursday he will face justice in a preliminary hearing before the Second Criminal Court. The investigation against Salas began in June 2009 by Jose Ayu Prado, who at the time was the Specialized Prosecutor for Organized Crime. (He is now the Attorney General). According to the case file, authorities detected an alleged irregularity in the movements of bank accounts of the company Edificaciones Portobello y Joed S.A., owned by Salas. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Jaime Salas was the Municipal Engineer during the administration of former Panama City Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro of the PRD. And of course during those years, from 2004 to 2009, the president was the PRD's Martin Torrijos. The "boom" of real estate construction started on their watch. Most people don't understand the power and importance of the position of "Municipal Engineer" for Panama City. Every building needs permits issued by this office before, during, and after construction - of anything - from a 100 story apartment building down to a doghouse.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Vice President of National Assembly Will Not Give Up Immunity From Prosecution

CorruptionThe Vice President of the National Assembly Marcos Gonzalez said yesterday he would not voluntarily surrender whatever is left of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution, as requested by the former Vice Minister Luis Ernesto Carles, and as part of the investigation opened by the Attorney General into alleged illegal wiretaps. Carles asked Gonzalez to not rely on his immunity from prosecution, and to support the statements he made in public last week about the wiretaps before the Attorney General.

"Carles has a political problem ... he wants to be a deputy in Aguadulce and he want to earn political points in the polls in his circuit," said Gonzalez. The Vice President of the National Assembly said his version about the alleged wiretapping was misinterpreted. "What I said was that the Security Council should be aware of the people who are trying to destabilize the government," he said. He said the person who has to explain himself about this case is Carles himself, because he admitted it was his voice on the recording, talking about sending resources such as machetes and chainsaws to the protesting Indians. "He [Carles] must clarify that situation," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said he is not going to declare anything to the Attorney General about this case if he does not receive a formal citation from the Attorney General. "I have nothing to clarify or respond ... whoever recorded Carles, that's their problem," he added. (Critica)

Marcos Gonzalez, Vice President of the National Assembly

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Trial Scheduled For IFARHU Embezzlement Case

CorruptionThe Sixth Circuit Criminal Court scheduled a preliminary hearing for 7 March 2012 against 31 people involved in the IFARHU embezzlement case of $155,000 that occurred between 2007 - 2008. Among those under investigation are the former Director of IFARHU Samuel Buitrago, as well as the staff of the department of Grant Tracking, the Department of Audits of the Comptroller, and the Office of International Technical Cooperation. (Critica)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Ministry Of Health Remains Silent Over Contract Modifications

CorruptionAfter complaints by changes made in the million-dollar contracts to build four hospitals in the interior of the country, the Government was silent yesterday. Those who did not remain silent were the spokespersons for the different organizations of the "civil society" that openly told La Estrella they remain suspicious of the actions of the Ministry of Health, and insist that generates suspicion of possible corruption and the irregular handling of public funds.

The Comptroller of the Republic said yesterday the Ministry of Health is the entity that must give due justification for the changes made ​​to the contracts signed in July 2010 with the company IBT Group Panama. Meanwhile, at the Ministry of Health, the technical and legal advisers of the institution took all day yesterday to prepare the answer that they said they would provide today through a press release.

Ruben Dario Carles, a former Comptroller, was surprised by the official response and he said it is the comptroller Gioconda Torres de Bianchini who must give explanations, because it is her responsibility to control the use of state funds.

Carlos Lee, spokesman for the Citizens Alliance for Justice, was concerned with the way the government is managing these multi million dollar contracts that were not included in the annual budget, and it's not known what they are doing. (Estrella)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Public Ministry Opens Official Investigation Into Wiretapping

Corruption The Public Ministry has opened an official investigation into alleged wiretapping against government opponents, following the release this month of conversations of the former Vice Minister of Labor Luis Ernesto Carles - who now is in the opposition to the government of Ricardo Martinelli - and the General Secretary of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), Mitchell Doens.

Sources inside of the Public Ministry said yesterday the investigation was opened by Attorney General Jose Ayu Prado on Wednesday, 15 February 2012, a day after a controversy broke out over the public admissions made by the Vice President of the National Assembly and Member of the Democratic Change political party, Marcos Gonzalez, that the elements of "state security" listen to opposition politicians. That same day, Ayu Prado was approached by journalists, given the requests made ​by ​several sectors of the country to open an investigation, but he refused to answer the journalist's questions.

A day later, Carles and Doens went to the Public Ministry to report the incident and to request an investigation. But it was not until yesterday when the news leaked about the opening of the investigation, and only after it was confirmed by Carles, after he spent three hours in the offices of the Public Ministry making a sworn statement. As he left the Public Minister the former Vice Minister Carles said he was informed of the existence of a file to investigate the wiretapping, which he described as an "assembly to discredit opposition politicians."

Meanwhile, sources reported that as of yesterday the PRD's Mitchell Doens had not received any summons to appear before the office of Ayu Prado. (Prensa)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former Vice Minister Testifies in Wiretap Investigation

CorruptionThe former Vice Minister Ernersto Luis Carles, on Thursday challenged the Vice President of the National Assembly, Marcos Gonzales to be stripped of his immunity and render affidavit to corroborate or clarify the facts surrounding the wiretaps of politicians, journalists, trade unionists and union leaders, after he hinted in the media that the State Security Council authorized the action. In his statement Carles called for an inspection to the Security Council, evoking Article 29 of the Constitution establishes that only the competent judicial authorities can authorized the intercept of telephone calls. Carles made his statements as he left today at noon the offices of the Attorney General, where he went "to serve as a witness at the preliminary investigation, after receiving a summons from the the Attorney General Jose Ayu Prado, referring to an official investigation being conducted into alleged phone wiretaps." The citation came after recordings of the former Vice Minister were spread through the Social Media in which he was talking to protesting Indians who were blocking the Pan-American highway. (Estrella)

Editor's Comment: So, what's being investigated? I'm sure the first question was - "Is that your voice on this recording?" In my opinion both sides were wrong on this one. The "former Vice Minister" was fired after the breakup of the political alliance between the Panameñista political party and the ruling Cambio Democratico party of president Ricardo Martinelli. During the protests Carles was apparently recorded as he coordinated with the protesting Indians, to buy them chainsaws they were to use to cut down trees to block the road. They also talked about taking down "towers" - presumably either cell phone towers or the towers used to carry high tension electrical lines. On the government's side - they probably did record this call and then spread it via the Internet in the form of a YouTube video. And of course that was wrong because telephone conversations can only be recorded legally with a judge's order. However it was also wrong for Carles - a disgruntled politician - to be "inciting riot" or whatever the hell else you might call it. I suspect this recording was the "intelligence information" cited by Security Minister Raul Mulino, which he used to justify shutting down cell phone coverage in the area. Anyway, it's going to get interesting. I wonder if Jose Ayu Prado will actually investigate the wiretaps - he might balk for political reasons. Or, will "national security" trump the Constitution. Stay tuned...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Comptroller Seizes 109 State Owned Vehicles (Improper Use)

CorruptionThe Comptroller General of the Republic, during an operation related to Carnival 2012, has achieved the retention so far of 109 official state owned vehicles, nationwide, for breach of the law. The operation was launched because during Carnival celebrations people tend to try to used these state owned vehicles and they drive them with expired license plates, they are being driven by unlicensed drivers, and being used to transport people who have nothing to do with the government. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: If it has a yellow stripe down the side, it's a state owned vehicle, and it's only supposed to be used for official business.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Blandon Named In FIS Audit For Diverting Government Funds

CorruptionThe National Assembly Deputy from the Panameñista political party, Jose Isabel Blandon, was included on the list of lawmakers who supposedly used a network to divert millions of dollars from the old Social Investment Fund, using false companies and foundations. An audit report of the FIS, prepared by the firm Lopez Consultants, said Blandon is linked to the diversion of an expenditure that should have reached the hands of the Catholic Church, but did not.

According to the report, Blandon used the Catholic Church as a "promoter" for the projects he requested from the FIS. The firm that prepared the report backed up the assertions with invoices and official FIS purchase orders that totaled at least $40,000 dollars each. Most purchases were allocated to one company, Servicios y Ventas Múltiples, the same company related to fictitious deliveries in cases of the other lawmakers who were also named in the multi million dollar fraud perpetrated against the FIS. The alleged aid promoted through Blandon included food and supplies, which should have been delivered to the church of Santa Ana.

During the external audit of the FIS, the auditing company López Consultores says they have found that the aid was never delivered. As a witness, the firm cited the pastor of the church, Manuel Man, who declared they have "never" received any help from the Assembly or from Deputy Blandon. Man admitted having signed several requests for support aimed at Blandon, because the Deputy himself made the suggestion. Blandon's assistants promised the pastor there would be no problem, and that this was the standard practice of the prior pastor at the church, said Man, according to the external audit report prepared on the FIS.

Amid the FIS scandal of the FIS report in January 2010, Blandon said the aid that had been requested through father Man was not only to that church, but encompassed the entire circuit 8-7. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: This is why the Panameñista lawmakers are ready to fall on their swords over the "Fifth Chamber" issue in the Supreme Court. If Martinelli can actually get eight of twelve Supreme Court justices, then they can hold trials and investigations into these kinds of corrupt practices being conducted by the members of the National Assembly. Up until now, there has been a sort of "cold war" - in which neither the Supreme Court justices nor the Deputies of the National Assembly can be tried or convicted by anyone. The "Fifth Chamber" would tip the balance of power in favor of the Supreme Court, and they will use that power to put opposition politicians like Blandon in jail, or at least get him kicked out of the National Assembly. Did I forget to mention "guilty, or not"? Hardball politics, Panama style. If Martinelli wants to end these Indian protests, he should just say "screw it" and name this three new judges. It's all about focus, and initiative.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panama City Mayor Cutting Staff And Eliminating Phantom Employees At City Hall

Corruption The Mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez responded to remarks made about the retention of the paychecks of officials of the municipality who are on vacation, which was denounced by the member of the Panameñista political party Luis Barria on the morning edition of the channel 13 Telemetro news. Mendez said that on Monday the payroll was paid with difficulty, because the institution is implementing a new system. She accepted that some vacations may have been disrupted, mainly because there are people on the payroll, but when the new administration took over, there were not actually working at the entity. Mayor Mendez recommended that any city official who finds themselves in this situation should come to the office of Human Resources to submit the resolution that was issued to approve their vacation time, and they will be paid. "We cannot continue to give checks to people who are not there," said the Mayor. Mendez made her remarks as she left the Don Bosco Church, where she went to fire pastor Oscar Rodriguez Madariaga. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: When Roxana Mendez took over she found there was about 1,000 people on the payroll of city hall who were either not needed, or who were receiving a paycheck and not actually going to work. She is now in the process of cleaning up the mess left behind by her predecessor Bosco Ricardo Vallarino. She's firing people left and right, all of them members of the Panameñista political party. And who should those people be mad at? The Varela brothers and Jose Blandon, who torched the alliance between the Panameñistas and the CD. So, I hear you've been fired. Want a job? Come over to the dark side...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Letter From Italy Says There Were No Cost Overruns in Finmeccanica Radar Purchase

CorruptionAn explanatory note from the Italian government, dated Jan. 19, denies there has been a cost overrun in the purchase of radar sets from the Italian company Finmeccanica, by the Panamanian government through the Ministry of Public Security. In the Italian government's response, President Ricardo Martinelli said yesterday "hopefully those malevolent and wicked souls who want nothing but bad for Panama reconsider know" and recognize they made a mistake. The note, signed by Massimo Pugnali responsible for coordinating Sales and Market Development for the Finmeccanica Group, and by the Italian ambassador in Panama Cursio Giancarlo, said it the first point: "The conditions offered by each company according to its subsystems are fully consistent with those used internationally for functions and similar programs, and the full cost of the entire system is congruous with the budget allocated by the Government of Panama for that purpose." The note further states the financing arrangements secured by Finmeccanica have ensured, as had been requested, that the balance of the state registration of debts were only applied at the beginning of the operation of the system (three years or so, immediately after the signing the contract). This information is given, after the Panamanian government asked Italy for an explanation of the contract, signed on June 30 last year between the two countries, due to the questions raised by members of the political opposition on the existence of a cost overrun on the purchase of the systems acquired from the company Finmeccanica. The note was addressed to President Martinelli, the Minister of Public Works, the Minister of Security, and the Chancellor. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Uh, allow me to state the obvious. The government of Panama went back to the company - Finmeccanica, which is 30% owned by the government of Italy - and ask them "did you charge us too much?" And the answer basically says "we charged what you had budgeted." Obviously, that's not the best way to determine if there was price gouging going on. "Excuse me Mr. Used Car Salesman - did you charge me too much for that used car?" Ridiculous. Why not hire an outside, independent contractor to go around the world and examine equal or comparative systems bought from this company and others by different nations around the world, to determine if there were price overruns. But that's not going to happen. With this letter the government of Panama will bury the whole issue.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Supreme Court Orders ANATI To Turn Over Juan Hombron Documents

CorruptionThe Supreme Court ordered the National Authority of Land Management (Anati) to provide detailed information on the free titling of land in the coastal community of Juan Hombrón, in the province of Cocle. This decision is contained in three decisions signed last November by the judges Jerónimo Mejía and Harley Mitchell, through which was granted an equal number of habeas data requests filed by attorney Jorge Sanchez Bernal, on behalf of the residents of the area. This is 3 of the 14 appeals filed last year by Sanchez, who also reported the case to the Public Ministry. Carlos Dutari, the Director of Land Titling of the ANATI, told the Supreme Court, in its response after being notified of the decisions, that he had not turned over the information due to processes of administrative and budgetary adjustments being made in the entity. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: In Panama requests for "habeas data" are basically like Freedom of Information requests. In this case the lawyer filed the habeas data requests in order to force the ANATI to turn over information in the case to the prosecutors. He knew the ANATI had the information, but they were not going to give it up, so he went to the Supreme Court to make them do so, and the court decided in his favor. Now the ANATI will have to make the information (whatever it is) available. These issues of access to what should be public information are the keystone of an anti corruption campaign. A truly non corrupt government is one that is completely and totally transparent. When facts and figures about how the money is spent, for example, is hidden, then you know someone is doing something wrong. And, it takes a massive effort (such as this) to force them to give it up. Today I learned that each and every representative in the Capital district of Panama City was given more than $400,000 dollars to spend on projects in their communities. What was that money spent on? There are 21 districts in Panama City, so that was $8.4 million dollars, spent by politicians, on what? Now, how easy (or hard) do you think it would be to get some true and accurate accounting on that spending? Answer = impossible.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Judge Resigns Just Days After Handing Down Decision in Corruption Case of Former President

CorruptionThe judge of the Second Superior Tribunal, Geneva Aguilar de Ladrón de Guevara, presented her resignation yesterday afternoon. Judicial sources confirmed the judge submitted her resignation, although the General Secretariat of the Court has not yet been officially or formally notified. Geneva Aguilar's decision comes just days after the Second Court of Justice upheld the dismissal in the money laundering case of former president Ernesto Perez Balladares. The judge was assigned to perform the duty on the tribunal, according to the alphabetical order of the judges composing the court, after her colleagues and Luis Mario Carrasco and Wilfredo Sáenz were declared disabled (conflict of interest). Geneva Aguilar objected to the grounds for disability (conflict of interest) presented by Judge Saenz and filed an injunction before the Supreme Court against the decision to allow the impediment of Saenz, supported by the judges Elvia Batista and Joaquin Ortega. But the Supreme Court enabled Judge Jose Hoo Justiniani as special deputy to constitute the court, that issued the dismissal of the charges filed against Perez Balladares and 14 other people. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: I didn't clearly understand all of that, and I think that's part of the intent. I understood there were some "irregularities" in the decision of the Second Superior Tribunal in the Perez Balladares money laundering case. Basically, there was still a decision that had to be made by the Supreme Court before this lower Tribunal should have been able to make their decision. However, they went ahead and did it anyway. No matter, it was always clear from the start this case would end up in the Supreme Court, from day one.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Investigation Will Proceed Against Director of the National Assistance Program Giacomo Tamburrelli

Corruption It was reported that today, Wednesday, 11 January 2012, Panama's Electoral Tribunal removed the electoral protection for the Director of the National Assistance Program, Giacomo Tamburrelli. Tamburrelli is also the General Secretary of the ruling Democratic Change (CD) political party. With this decision, the Electoral Prosecutor can proceed with the investigation initiated against Tamburrelli, for the alleged commission of electoral crimes against the freedom and honesty of the vote. According to the document, the investigation against Tamburrelli began on 26 September 2011, the result of a complaint filed by the lawyer Manuel Arosemena Santana, representing Mitchell Doens, the Secretary General of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).

In the complaint it is alleged Tamburrelli used the state resources under his control to entice members of the PRD political party to switch to the CD political party. The decision from the Electoral Tribunal also said "the investigation being conducted by the Electoral Prosecutor is based on actions unrelated to the participation of Mr. Giacomo Tamburrelli Lettieri recent party elections held on 4 December 2011." These elections were held in the district of El Bebedero, in the province of Los Santos. The election was won by the CD candidate Nidia Cureña.

The resolution of the Electoral Tribunal is dated 3 January 2012. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: As the Director of the National Assistance Program, Giacomo Tamburrelli controls the funds that are handed out to the different areas of the country for community improvement projects. In the complaint against him his political detractors in the PRD allege he is using those funds as bait to get local politicians to switch from the PRD to his CD party. In Panama people who are serving in the higher ranking positions of government have a certain degree of protection from frivolous or politically motivated lawsuits. In these kinds of cases the Electoral Tribunal has to make a decision - based on the evidence and the complaint - whether or not there is enough reason to allow the investigation to proceed. If so, they "lift" his protection, and now the Electoral Prosecutor can proceed with his investigation. It's worth noting that the Electoral Tribunal and the Electoral Prosecutor are two positions in the government that are not controlled by President Ricardo Martinelli and the CD - they're controlled by the PRD. So, yeah, as with everything else in Panama, it's political.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Money Laundering Case Against Ernesto Perez Balladares Dismissed

CorruptionThe Second Court of Justice under the presentation of Judge Elvia Batista issued a definitive dismissal in favor of the former President Ernesto Pérez Balladares, in relation to the case for the crime of money laundering. The sentence was handed down on 5 January 2012, which benefits Balladares and fourteen others who were also affiliated with this case. Perez Balladares was under investigation for alleged diversion of funds in a process of concession for the operation of several casinos. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Ah, OK. Now it all makes sense. Sometimes it takes awhile for all of the moving parts and pieces to "click" into place. A few days ago the new President of the Supreme Court Alejandro Moncada Luna was sworn in, and in his acceptance speech he was talking about how they would be submitting a proposal to limit the terms for Magistrates to ten years. And, he also wanted the ability to fire corrupt judges. At the time I didn't know what he was talking about, and I said so in my comments. Currently Supreme Court justices are already limited to ten years in office, but Alejandro Moncada Luna was talking about the judges who sit on the Superior Tribunals, like the ones who decided this case in favor of the former president Ernesto Perez Balladares. During his speech Moncada Luna said "we cannot continue to allow corruption in the judiciary." Someone called me up and explained that these Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. And, they are notoriously corrupt, especially in high profile cases involving people with lots of money. The person who called said often it becomes a virtual bidding war, and whoever is willing to pay the most money, wins the case. And what's more, it's almost impossible to remove these people from their positions, no matter what. Now, of course I have no indication any bribes were paid in the case of Ernesto Perez Balladares. And, I suspect the government prosecutors will now appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. If the decision had gone against Perez Balladares then he would be the one doing the appealing. No matter - in cases such as this the final word is always had by the Supreme Court, and I don't expect this case will die at this level.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Three Former ANATI Officials Led To The Public Ministry in Handcuffs

CorruptionThree former officials of the National Land Authority (Anati) were led in handcuffs today to the Attorney General's Office to make be interrogated as part of the investigations following them for the granting of free titles for 54 hectares of land in Juan Hombrón. Preliminary reports indicate they are the former Legal Counsel of the ANATI, and the former Cartographers of the institution. Information indicates the main person accused in this case is Anabelle Villamonte, the former Director of Land Titling, who is free on bail and who faces charges for alleged crimes against the environment. TVN News is working to determine of these three people are being interrogated for the presumed commission of the same crime, or if the investigation has been able to prove that they committed some other type of crime. (TVN)
Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former ANATI Official Anabelle Villamonte Released On Bail

CorruptionThe former Director Land Titling of the National Land Authority (Anati), Anabelle Villamonte, was released after posting $250,000 bail, according to her defense lawyer Guillermina McDonald. Villamonte was arrested and has been detained at the temporary holding facility of the Judicial Investigation Department (DIJ) since 15 December 2011, charged with allegations of crimes against the environment in the case related to the allocation of titles for land allegedly located in mangrove swamps. Villamonte is now at home, according to her lawyer. She was released after the judge of the Second Criminal Court gave official notice to the Attorney General that bail had been posted. (Panama America)
Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

"Papadimitriu Should Have Said Something From The Start" - Martinelli

Corruption The Minister of the Presidency, Demetrio Papadimitriu, should have clarified his family's participation in the purchase of rights of possession property in Juan Hombrón from the outset, said president Ricardo Martinelli. "If I had known, I would have told you before," Martinelli said on channel 2 TVN Noticias. On 20 December 2011, two months after it was disclosed that the government had granted free title to 54 hectares of land in Juan Hombrón to several privately held companies linked to the family members of the Minister of the Presidency - Papadimitriu admitted his parents had confirmed their connection with the acquisition and titling of those lands. The lawyers representing the Papadimitriu family say they claimed the title over these rights because they paid for them. Last night Papadimitriu was called and a message was left but he did not answer. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Whoops, again. Is this Martinelli tossing Papadimitriu under the bus? Maybe he's the member of the Cabinet who's "burned out" and in need of a change of scenery. Well, I doubt it. Martinelli has stuck by several others of his administration who have gotten in trouble for scandals, and you really (really) have to screw the pooch for him to jettison your ass. There have been several people that I thought "well, that's it for that guy..." but in the end Martinelli has remained true. And, Papadimitriu is Martinelli's closest political adviser so in reality there's not much of a chance of him getting cut loose. But yeah, Papadimitriu should have let us know sooner his parents were using their son's political connections to worm ill gotten land titles for beachfront property thanks to sweetheart deals with the ANATI. That would have been nice...

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former Education Minister Castro Faces Questioning in Corruption Probe

Corruption The former Minister of Education, Belgis Castro, appeared today before the Second Anti Corruption Proscutor to file declaration regarding the case of irregular contracts for the removal of fiberglass from several schools in the country. Belgis has been charged for committing embezzlement and for property damage (to the state) totaling more than $100,000 dollars. A recess was declared and the questioning will continue in the afternoon. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: Belgis Castro was one of the Education Ministers who served during the PRD administration Martin Torrijos. This whole "clean up the fiberglass" scam was totally unnecessary from the start. These guys managed to create a type of mass hysteria by convincing everyone that the schools were "contaminated" with fiberglass, and they had to use government funds to "clean it up." In fact there's nothing contaminating at all about fiberglass insulation - it's not harmful at all as long as it's behind a wall of gypsum board (for example.) Yes, the little fibers can irritate your skin which is why workers who are installing fiberglass insulation wear protective clothing. Belgis Castro and others at the Ministry of Education first created the bogus need to "clean up" something that was not in reality a problem at all, then they embezzled the money allocated for the (unnecessary) cleanup. The investigations continue.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Judge Grants Bail To Anabelle Villamonte for $250,000

CorruptionThe Second Criminal Court granted bail to Anabelle Vilamonte, the former Director of Certification and Adjustment of the National Authority for Land Administration (Anati) for $250,000 dollars. Villamonte is accused of crimes against the environment related to the transfer of 54 hectares of beachfront property in Juan Hombrón, in the province of Cocle. The court was running against the decision of Attorney General José Ayú Prado. However, it remains to be seen of the Attorney General accepts the amount of the bail, or if he will appeal the decision. If so, Villamonte could spend Christmas in the detention cell of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ). (Critica)

Editor's Comment: In Panama prosecutors have the power to order a person's arrest, and anyone who has been detained can apply for bail to a judge.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Varela Calls On Italy To Explain The Finmeccanica Scandal to Panama

CorruptionThe Italian Government has to settle accounts with Panama about the scandal in which the Italian company Finmeccanica is involved, with which Panama has a contract for the purchase of security equipment, said today Vice President Juan Carlos Varela. He also suggested the contract should be suspended immediately, in order to be negotiated, in order to buy what is needed to buy and remove needs to be eliminated. Varela also reiterated that he alone was responsible for managing a framework agreement as the Chancellor that was signed during a state visit by the presidents of Panama and Italy, in which regrettably the figure of an intermediary later emerged. Valter Lavitola - The vice president said in an interview on TVN News that he recommended to President Ricardo Martinelli not to appoint the Italian Valter Lavitola as an honorary consul, and Martinelli followed his recommendation. (Estrella)
Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Mulino Changes His Story On Radar Costs

CorruptionAfter arguing for months that the 19 radars Panama purchased from the Italian company Selex are more expensive than those purchased by Yemen and Turkey because the contract includes the cost of the work needed to install the radars, the Minister of Public Security Jose Raul Mulino changed his position yesterday. Mulino revealed the Panamanian government will have to assume "the work of opening new roads, installing a fiber optic system, wiring and satellite connections for the radars to work." "They [Selex] have to make the radars work, and Panama has to create the conditions for them to work," said Mulino while speaking on the Omega Stereo news program. This is the first time Minister Mulino has admitted that the State will have to bear these costs, and he does so after the criticisms that have been made against this contract in Panama and in Italy, and after the release of the contracts on the government website established this obligation on the part of the government of Panama. In addition, Mulino denied these contracts were granted in a direct manner (without any kind of bidding process) however the resolutions approved by the Cabinet prove contrary to his statements. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: The cover-up is slowly melting away. The Italian company Finmeccanica developed a normal routine which they practiced in countries around the world, a strategy through which they could corrupt government officials practically anywhere. Remember, these government officials are spending tax dollars - not their own money - and what these corrupt bastards are looking for is ways to steal the money without getting caught and thrown in jail. Finmeccanica to the rescue! Using intermediaries like Valter Lavitola, they sell the local government a package of military or security hardware. In the case of Panama they were buying radar sets that were to be used to monitor the coastlines for drug traffickers (needed), helicopters (needed), and digital mapping services for the entire country (needed.) The bottom line price of the products and services is inflated. The corrupt local government officials agree to pay more (tax money) than they should. Then Finmeccanica creates a "kick back" mechanism through third parties, another company that supposedly has nothing do to with the government of Italy or the government of Panama. This company gets paid 10% supposedly for brokerage services, whatever that means. Finmeccanica covers themselves legally with contracts, and they include clauses prohibiting these third party guys from giving any money to government officials from either Italy or Panama. That's their "plausible deniability" protection. In the case of Selex in Panama they cancelled the contract with Agafia in October 2011 - after the whole deal had blown up. In short, Finmeccanica tried to execute their life raft, but that will be too little and too late. Meanwhile here in Panama the inflated price that Panama was in fact paying for these 19 radar sets is money that would have eventually found its way back through Finmeccanica to Agafia, and then (behind the scenes) into the pockets of corrupt government officials in both Panama and Italy. As long as no one finds out, that is. This whole deal fell apart before any bribes could be paid. But, you can bet your ass they were going to be paid. How many times has Finmeccanica done this same deal around the world? How many times has Panama done this same deal with other companies on other projects and on other contracts? It's hard to investigate this stuff when the government of Panama is so non-transparent with government contracts and spending. And, they are non-transparent for a reason. And the reason is - they are stealing money hand over fist. Always have, always will. There is no practical difference between the PRD, Panameñistas, and now the CD - except who happens to be stealing the money today.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

New Multi Million Dollar Government Contract To A "Friendly" Company

Corruption The Consortium IBT Group - which was just registered on 9 November 2011 the Consortium IBT Medical Outsourcing Services, SA in the Public Registry - yesterday managed to win the approval from the Cabinet for a government contract worth $125 million dollars with the Office of Social Security for the supply of equipment and services for hemodialysis. This contract has a duration of 52 months, "extendable". IBT Group has been awarded several contracts worth millions of dollars in Panama, such as for building hospitals for $ 386 million, and the company was also awarded another contract for the construction of one of the "cold chain" markets worth more than $23 million dollars in La Chorrera. IBT is the company that also produced, through their company Tarjetas Láser Latinoamérica, S.A., the 600,000 defective passports through a direct contract in 2010. At least three sources confirmed to this newspaper (La Prensa) that the president, Ricardo Martinelli, several of his friends, and the Minister of Public Works Federico Suarez traveled without warning on the company's private plane to Italy in August, from the Dominican Republic, where they had arrived earlier on the presidential plane. In addition, Dominican news media, including Elsiglo21.com, reported last May that the president of IBT Group, Jose Ramon Brea, "has been seen several times at restaurants in Santo Domingo and the Country House with Ricardo and Luis Martinelli," the sons of president Ricardo Martinelli, with whom - they add - presumably have "business linkages." (Prensa)
Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former ANATI Official Anabelle Villamonte Remains In Prison

CorruptionAnabelle Villamonte, the former Director of Regulation and Titling of the National Land Authority (ANATI) remains in prison after finishing the third day and more than ten straight hours of questioning in the office of the Attorney General Jose Ayú Prado. Villamonte's defense attorney requested a change to the "preventative measure" which is being considered. They are also waiting for the Court of Appeals in Cocle to decide on a request for bail they filed last Friday. Villamonte is being investigated on charges of alleged crimes against the environment in the allocation (titling) of 54 hectares of land located on the beaches of Juan Hombrón. During the questioning Villamonte responded to some 50 questions posed by the authorities of the Attorney General's Office. Early on, Villamonte's defense attorney Guillermina McDonald said all of the legal requirements specified under Law 80 of 2009 were met for the award of the land. The discussion (questioning) began at 8:00 am at the Attorney General's Office, and it is presumed to have been prolonged over the categorization of the land that was allocated for free, because according to Villamonte's defense attorney Guillermina McDonald, "the land in question was adjacent to mangroves, but it was not mangroves." Speaking for her client, McDonald said she (Villamonte) was not the government official who conducted the entire legal process, indicating it was Villamonte was who signed the award (of the land). (Panama America)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Minister of the Presidency Jimmy Papadimitriu's Parents Were Behind Land Purchases in Juan Hombron

CorruptionAfter an investigation by La Prensa into the case of the titling of more than 54 hectares of land in Juan Hombrón in the province of Cocle, as well as follow-up articles covering the emerging scandal, this newspaper (La Prensa) tried again to interview the Minister of the Presidency. Demetrio "Jimmy" Papadimitriu on the controversy, and he finally agreed, while at the same time he opened the door so the lawyers representing his parents would also do an interview.

Papadimitriu accepted his family's relationship with the titling of land in Juan Hombrón: "I talked to my parents and they confirmed that they had in fact invested in the purchase of Rights of Possession land from the fishermen in the area of Juan Hombrón, but also in Bocas del Toro and Santa Catalina, not now but rather years ago." He said his family has had companies in Panama for more than 40 years. "I do not manage my parents' business, and they don't get into my activities," he said. He admitted that Anabelle Villamonte, the former Director of Land Titling of the National Authority for Land Management (ANATI) - who has been arrested in this scandal - worked for his parents. And it was the Democratic Change political party - of which she is a member - who named her to that office.

But he exempted from any involvement Alejandro Castillero, the former Director of Anati who was recently appointed to a diplomatic post in China. "He had nothing to do with it," said Papadimitriu. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: OK, now where did I leave that bullshit detector? Ah, here it is. Allow me to highlight the parts of this "confession" that are most likely lies and bullshit, and to identify those parts that are most likely truth and fact;

Truth and Fact #1: Jimmy Papadimitriu's parents bought land in Juan Hombron. They are up to their eyeballs in this scandal. The only reason Papadimitriu agreed to participate in this interview with La Prensa and to come clean is because he knows the truth and facts are out there already, most likely as a result of the three solid days and hours of testimony that has been given by the primary lawyer responsible for putting all of this mess together, Anabelle Villamonte. So now that she's spilling her guts to the Attorney General, it was time for the smart politician Jimmy Papadimitriu to face the facts and make a public statement, and to seize the little remaining opportunity he has to try to spin this into something that might save him and his family from further scrutiny.

Spin Alert #1: In this article when Papadimitriu highlights that his family also purchased Rights of Possession property in Bocas del Toro and Santa Catalina - the obvious response should be "so friggin' what?" Was Anabelle Villamonte involved in granting free titles for those lands as well? Is there an ongoing investigation over the land his parents bought in Bocas del Toro or Santa Catalina? No, of course not. He only mentions this in an attempt to paint his parent's purchase of the land in Juan Hombron as something natural and normal, the type of thing they do every day. So, this is an element of spin.

Spin Alert #2: Papadimitriu says his family has had businesses in Panama for more than 40 years. Again - so what? The administration of Ricardo Martinelli is comprised mostly of businessmen, and Jimmy Papadimitriu is at least a second or third generation businessman in Panama. The fact that his parents have businesses in Panama is irrelevant to the ongoing investigation over the improper titling of land by Anabelle Villamonte in Juan Hombron. This is more spin.

Probable Truth, Lie, Spin Mix: The next line is a veritable cocktail - sort of like a Tequila Sunrise - you can look at it anyway you want and what you get depends on how deep you insert the straw, until you stir (spin) and then it all turns the same color anyway. Papadimitriu said "I do not manage my parents' business, and they don't get into my activities." Well, that's at least partially true because Jimmy Papadimitriu is the Minster of the Presidency and he gets to vote at the Cabinet meetings, and his parents don't. And of course his parents are adults and they can do whatever they want without consulting him. So those are elements of truth. However Jimmy Papadimitriu seems to be saying "I didn't have anything to do with this." Like, his parents were just out there buying up Rights of Possession land in Juan Hombron, and then the titling process was rocketed through the system at light speed, and he expects us to believe that the fact he is the Minister of the Presidency had nothing to do with that? Really? Please, don't insult our intelligence. I know people who have been trying to get land titled for more than six years. I guess they should try to get their offspring in positions of importance in the government in order to get a land title, because nothing else is working. So, this is a truth, lie, spin mixture, concocted out of necessity to face the facts in public.

Anabelle Villamonte Worked For His Parents: Massive revelation. Well, not really, it's already been in the press. But now they are admitting it. Jimmy Papadimitriu's parents were the money behind at least a part of the Juan Hombron deal. Anabelle Villamonte, who just spent the weekend in prison so she could take a break from being interrogated, is slowly and surely laying out ever little stinking detail of every deal. And of course that means the names of Jimmy Papadimitriu's parents are now in the case file being developed by the Attorney General. Normally when a lawyer breaks the law they do it on behalf of someone else. So do you think Anabelle Villamonte is willing to take one for the team? To lie and protect Jimmy Papadimitriu's parents? Do you think the lawyer was the only one breaking the law? Or, was there influence peddling going on, to allow for the light-speed titling of this land bought by Jimmy Papadimitriu's parents? This is a truth, and a fact, and it's going to be emerging as a more important part of the investigation as the Attorney General continues to develop the case.

Political Parties Make Appointments To Government Positions? Really? Since when? In this article Jimmy Papadimitriu tries to make us believe that it was Ricardo Martinelli's Cambio Democratico political party that appointed Anabelle Villamonte to the position of the Director of Land Titling of the newly created National Land Management Authority (ANATI). Err, BULLSHIT! People appoint people to positions in the government in Panama. Political parties do not. And if it was the party, then who is in charge of the party? Jimmy Papadimitriu would have us believe that he, personally, did not have anything to do with the appointment of Anabelle Villamonte at the ANATI. But at the same time he doesn't say who did appoint her, if it wasn't him. Listen - this one simply does not pass the smell test. Anabelle Villamonte was working for his parents. Working as a private lawyer created the brand new Panamanian companies that were used to buy the rights of possession property from the local fishermen in Juan Hombron. And then like magic she was appointed to the ANATI? In that position specifically? And Jimmy Papadimitriu would try to make us believe that he didn't have anything to do with it? Again, please don't insult our intelligence.

Alejandro Castillero Is Innocent: That part I believe. He was running the new ANATI office and he probably didn't have any clue what Anabelle Villamonte was doing down at the office that handed out the land titles. Why not? As the boss he was supposed to be monitoring and managing the activities of those who worked under him, right? And that's especially true if those people - like Anabelle Villamonte - were apparently or allegedly breaking the law. So ask yourself, why not. Why didn't Alejandro Castillero know what Anabelle Villamonte was doing? (Rhetorical question). Answer - she was most likely appointed directly by Jimmy Papadimitriu himself. That meant (to Alejandro Castillero) "hands off." She had most likely been anointed by Papadimitriu so that meant Castillero was to keep his nose out of her business. And what's the first thing the loyal puppy (Villamonte) did at her new job? Cram through the land titles for Jimmy Papadimitriu's parents. Sweet. So, yeah it's probably true that Castillero was blissfully ignorant of what was going on. Now, was he criminally negligent at the same time? Should he have better managed the ANATI while he was in charge? Doesn't the buck stop with the Director? Nah, he was protected. He resigned and they assigned him to a consulate in China, literally on the other side of the world in order to protect him. Meanwhile, Anabelle Villamonte is in prison. And from there, the young lady is continuing to spill her guts.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Italian Government Remains Silent on "International Corruption" Investigation

CorruptionThe Italian Foreign Ministry has not reacted so far to the request made ​​last Friday by the Panamanian government - transmitted personally by Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino to the charge d'affaires of the Italian Embassy in Panama, Rosino-to Saverio - asking them to "clarify" that the contract process with the conglomerate Finmeccanica to acquire security equipment worth about $250 million dollars "was transparent." The request from the Panamanian government comes after learning that the Prosecutor's office in Naples began a new investigation for alleged embezzlement, extortion, corruption and incitement to corruption of persons in the exercise of public functions, which may involve members of the Government of Panama, and the main person being investigated is Valter Lavitola, who is now a fugitive from the Italian justice system, a key player in the process that culminated in the now disputed contracts. The Italian judicial authorities hypothesize they are facing a case of international corruption. So said the assistant prosecutor of Naples, Francesco Greco, in an interview with this newspaper. Greco, although he did not give any details on the new evidence, said Lavítola was married in Italy and that he is sought in Panama. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: I imagine there are many people in the Panamanian government who are greatly concerned about exactly what might be turned up by the prosecutors and investigators in Italy. Here, Mulino and Martinelli can exercise greater control over what information gets out. However they have no control whatsoever over the news media in Italy, or the Italian prosecutors and justice system. Yup, they're nervous.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Former ANATI Official Returns For Third Day of Questioning - Spent The Weekend In Jail

CorruptionFor the third time, Anabel Villamonte, the former Director of Certification and Regulation of the National Land Authority (Anati) appeared before the Attorney General to continue with the questioning process as part of the investigation into the allocation of lands in the are of Juan Hombrón, province of Cocle. Villamonte was taken to the offices of the Public Ministry by detectives of the Judicial Investigation Department (DIJ) after having spent the weekend in jail. Her defense lawyer Guillermina McDonald said the questioning should be completed today, and the requests they filed for bail should be processed and heard. She added that they are trying to establish all of the elements to confirm whether nor not all of the requirements as established by law were followed in the allocation of the land, and whether or not these lands are protected (environmentally speaking). Villamonte has been charged with allegations of crimes against the environment. (Telemetro)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Anabelle Villamonte Will Spend The Weekend In Jail

CorruptionThe former director of Land Titling of the National Land Authority (ANATI) Anabelle Villamonte will spent the weekend in jail and on Monday she will continue with her third day of questioning. This, after the Attorney General filed formal charges against her for crimes against the environment as part of the investigation into the granting of land titles in the area of Juan Hombrón, province of Cocle. The Attorney General ordered Villamonte's arrest on Thursday afternoon. The second day of questioning (yesterday) lasted about six hours according to Villamonte's defense attorney Guillermina McDonald, who said her client explained her functions as the National Director of Titling and Regulation of Lands as part of the institution, and the flow chart of how each application for title was handled. She was also asked about the creation of corporations formed by Villamonte before she became a public official.

According to McDonald, Villamonte, before being hired to work in the ANATI, was hired by a private attorney to get the land and to make the arrangements under the prior law. Among the evidence presented by Villamonte's defense attorney was a memo she prepared as the Director of Land Titling of the ANATI, which raised a query to the Legal Department of the Tax Office, in order to know if she should declare herself as impeded, because as a private lawyer she had known about the petitions for title that were coming to her office, and if she should authorize them. McDonald explained that the memorandum details that Villamonte was the person who would have to sign the authorizations for the land titles, and she could not be replaced. "She raised this query to know whether or not she was entitled to sign these procedures," she said.

She added her client is charged for alleged award of protected areas, mangroves, among others, when in fact these lands were not in protected areas, but in adjacent areas. In addition, the defense presented yesterday a formal application for bail for Villamonte before the Causes Settlement Court in Cocle, where the investigation started. The procedures to refer the case to this court, which must analyze the request, were initiated by the General Secretariat of the Attorney General's Office.

Upon leaving the Attorney General's office, after being questioned for nearly six hours, Villamonte issued no word to the media and this time she went through the main entrance of the institution. According to her lawyer Villamonte was denied special request to attend the graduation of a family member. In this case five complaints have been filed. One by the Center for Environmental Advocacy, which indicates that 97% of the Pacific coast is mangrove forests, and in Juan Hombrón are located one of the main reservoirs of mangroves in the country. (Panama America)

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks