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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 04:41 PM EDT

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Panama legislature to debate maritime reform

Law & Lawyers Xinhua - Panama's legislature, the National Assembly, on Tuesday is debating a maritime law reform, sent by the executive to boost investment and consolidate the nation as a center for maritime services, Panama's vice president Ruben Arosemena said on Tuesday. He said he had formally presented the project to the assembly on Monday night alongside Panama Maritime Authority (AMP) administrator, Fernando Solorzano. There are four parts to the reform: a reform to the Maritime Justice Procedure, a new General Ports Law, the new General Merchant Marine Law and the Maritime Trade Law, which reforms the second book of the Panama Trade Code. (more)
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Gomez Will Question Cornejo Tomorrow

Law & Lawyers By Florencio Gálvez F. for La Critica - Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez will question the Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo Batista tomorrow, a month after the President of Panama's Supreme Court Graciela Dixon presented a formal criminal complaint accusing Cornejo of abuse of authority. Cornejo still has not been charged with a crime in the case.
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Public Ministry Wiretaps Declared Unconstitutional

Law & Lawyers By Florencio Gálvez F. for La Critica - Panama's Supreme Court declared unconstitutional telephone tapping done by the Public Ministry. Judge Winston Spadafora wrote the decision which was endorsed by Graciela Dixon, Harley James Mitchel, Víctor Benavides, José Troyano, Aníbal Salas and Virgilio Trujillo, the replacement for Alberto Cigarruista. Judges Adán Arnulfo Arjona and Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño abstained. The court's decision comes upon the examination of a resolution emitted by Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez on 17 August 2005, which authorized Auxiliary Prosecutor Luis Alberto Martínez to tap the phones of the ex-First Prosecutor of Chorrera who was being investigated for corruption. The examination of the Supreme Court also arises after the opinion emitted by solicitor of the administration Oscar Ceville, who upon being consulted on the issue, warned that it is possible to order the recording of telephone conversations as specified in Article 18 of Law 13 of 1994 which expands Article 21-B of Law 3 of 1986, it is not less than the same legal norm and indicated that it is subject to that specified in Article 29 of the Magna Carta, which was the object of a reform based on the legislative act of 1 November 2004. That article establishes in the next to the last paragraph that "all private communications are inviolable and they can not be intercepted or be recorded, except by the order of a judicial authority, text which in effect at the moment the object resolution. Articles 29 and 32 of the National Constitution say "that only the judicial authority is authorized to order telephone interventions".
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"I did not overstep my bounds" - Cornejo

Law & Lawyers By José Otero and Rafael Pérez G. for La Prensa - "I did not overstep my bounds and am the competent authority to conduct this investigation," said Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo, upon being questioned by reporters with regards to the criminal complaint filed against her by the President of Panama's Supreme Court Graciela Dixon, for starting an investigation that supposedly involved Supreme Court judges. In addition, Dixon complained that Cornejo ordered Luiggi Colucci Polanco and Samir Tejeira Arcia to give sworn testimony in the investigation on 4 July 2007. The two work as assistants to judges in the Fourth Room of the Supreme Court, and action Dixon considered to be an abuse of power on the part of the prosecutor. Cornejo said it is not possible to comment on the information obtained in her investigation without violating the principles of reservation in the summary. "I do not have any personal interest in this case and I am not hiding anything", she added. (more)
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Attorney General Analyzing Cornejo Complaint

Law & Lawyers By Rafael Luna Noguera and José Otero for La Prensa - The Directors of Panama's Attorney Generals Office denied yesterday allegations of favoritism in the case of Anti Corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo, who was denounced by the President of Panama's Supreme Court Graciela Dixon for abuse of authority, and although a week has gone by, formal charges still have not been filed. Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez said there is "no hurry" in the case, and although her office admitted the criminal complaint filed by Dixon, they still have to analyze the subjective element in the complaint, and then to determine if there is merit in the case and to proceed with forming charges and to question Cornejo. "The law does not require a formal notification; nevertheless, she has already been given a copy of the complaint and she has presented a power of attorney for her legal representation," said Gomez, who declined to comment on merits of the case, considering that she herself will be the one charged with investigating the complaint. Gomez also declined to comment on the controversy arisen in the Court because of this case. (more) (Photo Credit: LA PRENSA/Ana Rentería)
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"Something Smells Rotten In the Court" - Monsignor José Dimas Cedeño

Law & Lawyers By Saúl Quintero y Carmen Boyd for El Siglo - The Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor José Dimas Cedeño, said he was worried about the conduct of the members of Panama's Supreme Court of Justice and said the Panamanian people are frustrated with the situation. He remembered that in 2005 the Church sent a "shout of desperation" and said that "something smells rotten in the Court," and that apparently that rot has not been corrected. He said the people should be able put their hopes in the justice system that is supposed to be a guarantor of true democracy. He said "if this (Judicial Organ) is such as it is, then what hopes do we have left," and he made a call to the magistrates of the Supreme Court, who he recognized as people with professional capacity, merits, and defects, to "please" solve their problems in an internal way and without causing public scandals in detriment to the social peace, which cannot be justified. He added that, although people change, the actual justice system must be reformed but first the judges should reach an agreement to resolve their disputes and differences internally, without scandalizing the Panamanian people, that should see the Supreme Court as an organization of justice, fairness and honor. University professor Miguel Antonio Bernal said "the Supreme Court is leaving a very bad impression at the national and international level, mainly when the magistrates ventilate their differences in public," and described the spectacle as "embarrassing."
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Cornejo Batista Notified of Charges

Law & Lawyers By Florencio Gálvez F. for La Critica - Panama's Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo Batista was officially notified of a charges against her for abuse of authority and an "attempt against the legal personality of the State." Cornejo Batista arrived at the Public Ministry late yesterday afternoon in order to deliver a power of attorney for her lawyer Carlos Muñoz Pope who will be defending her. Cornejo Batista did not want to make any other statements about the case. The President of the Supreme Court Graciela Dixon requested that Cornejo Batista be removed from her position for investigating supposed irregularities related to a decision by the Supreme Court to unfreeze bank accounts owned by ex-President Ernesto Perez Balladares. Yesterday Cornejo Batista declared herself unable to continue with the case due to the criminal complaint filed by Judge Dixon. (Photo: EPASA)
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Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Accused of Abuse of Power

Law & Lawyers By Juan Manuel Díaz C. for the Panama America - The Public Ministry issued an order to be investigated against Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Maribel Cornejo after she was accused by the President of the Supreme Court, Graciela Dixon, of abusing her office. The Public Ministry formalized the charges and informed Prosecutor Cornejo of the complaint against her. Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez said that with regards to the request to have Cornejo removed from her position, that decision corresponds to the Criminal Room of the Supreme Court to decide, and indicated that an administrative file has been opened against Cornejo.
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The Supreme Court vs. The Public Ministry

Law & Lawyers By Juan Manuel Díaz C. for the Panama America - A new struggle between Panama's Judicial Branch and the Public Ministry arose yesterday when the President of the Supreme Court Graciela Dixon presented a criminal complaint against Maribel Cornejo, Panama's Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor, charging her with abuse of functions, abuse of office, and interfering with the administration of justice. According to the denunciation interposed by Dixon, prosecutor Cornejo investigated the form in which the Supreme Court resolved a request for a "shelter of guarantees" presented by ex-President Ernesto Perez Balladares. Dixon alleged that the prosecutor's action is a dangerous precedent, because it violates the independence of Judicial power.
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Supreme Court Suspends Zoning Changes in the Former Canal Zone

Law & Lawyers By Florencio Gálvez F. for La Critica - The Administrative Room of Panama's Supreme Court of Justice provisionally suspended the effects of resolution number Nº 237-2005, dated 16 August 2005, issued by the Direction of Urban Development of the Housing Ministry (MIVI). The resolution changed the zoning requirements for areas of the former canal zone, specifically with regards to height limitations, lines of construction, and the cancellation of existing building codes in the canal area. Lawyer Carlos Varela Cardenal presented the "administrative contentious demand of invalidity" in representation of the Clayton Association of Owners and Residents (APRECLA), the Property and Home Owners Association of the City Garden of Albrook, and the Residents Association of Quarry Heights against the resolution emitted by the MIVI. The Supreme Court Decision, whose ponente is judge Víctor Benavides, indicates that the General Direction of Urban Development of the Housing Ministry, when making the modifications to the zoning requirements in the areas of the former canal zone, failed to consider or allow the participation of the citizens, including a those people who could see their interests affected, as established in Article 24 of Law Nº 6 of 22 January 2002.
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Dates Still Not Set for Extraordinary Sessions

Law & Lawyers By Roberto López Dubois for La Prensa - Although many people in the government have said President Torrijos will call the National Assembly to extraordinary sessions, the dates have not yet been defined. One of the primary subjects that will be discussed is the Free Trade Agreement signed on 28 June 2007 with the United States. The Minister of the Presidency Ubaldino Real said they are analyzing those bills which were left in debates to see which should be included in the extraordinary sessions. One of the most important projects left hanging was the one regarding a new national transportation system. According to the President of the National Assembly Elías Castillo the transportation law could be included in the extraordinary sessions. It all depends on the Executive. (Photo Credit: Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com)
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New Law Allows for Easier Liquidation of Seized Goods

Law & Lawyers By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Anti-Crime and law enforcement organizations will be able to use confiscated and seized goods related to drug trafficking. The National Assembly approved in third and final debate a legislative initiative that provides the Public Ministry with the legal tools to allow them to sell, donate or put to use goods obtained by the Panamanian government related to criminal acts. The proposed law Number 315 on seized goods, put forward by the National Assembly's Commission on Drugs, came about because of the problems encountered with storing and maintaining buildings, cars, computers, electronic equipment that have been seized as part of criminal legal processes, mostly those related to drug trafficking. The new law would allow the National Commission for the Study and Prevention of Drug Related Crimes (CONAPRED) to carry out auctions witnessed by a notary public to sell seized goods, and the proceeds from those sales can be returned to government offices and social programs dedicated to prevention, enforcement, and drug treatment programs. (more)
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ATTT Fines Drunk Drivers $750,000 So Far This Year

Law & Lawyers By José Edwin Sánchez M. for La Critica - According to Major Teófilo Moreno of the of the Operations Directorate of Transit of the National Police, so far in 2007 more than 5,000 drivers have been ticketed for driving under the influence. The fine is $150 for a first offense meaning that the total value of tickets issued thus far is more than $750,000 which will be paid to the Ground Transport and Transit Authority (ATTT.) Despite the high numbers of tickets issued to drivers surprised while driving drunk, Moreno said they are "hanging on by their fingernails" because there are not enough breathalyzers to meet demand. He recognized the importance of the instrument since they have surprised many people who not only have alcohol on their breath, but also those who are completely intoxicated, who are dangerous behind the wheel. So far this year 196 people have died in traffic accidents, down from 239 as compared to the same time period last year.
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Supreme Court Sustains Garcia's Destitution

Law & Lawyers By Gloria Leiva Gaitán y Elizabeth Alveo Miranda for El Siglo - After eleven months, the plenary session of the Supreme Court of Justicia (CSJ) decided unanimously that the Ex-Defender of the People Liborio Garcia, will not return to his position. The judges refused to admit an appeal filed by his lawyer against Resolution Number 53 of 29 June 2006, dictated by the National Assembly, which ordered his destitution. The magistrates sustained their decision in that the resolution dealt with constitutional and legal aspects of the position of the Defender of the People. In addition, their decision included aspects of the functions of the National Assembly, placing emphasis in administrative characteristics and talked about to the nature of the positions formulated by the appeal against the removal of his position. The Third Room of the Court admitted the administrative demand, also presented against the same resolution, but this decision does not suspend the effect of that appeal.
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New Law Would Allow Public Minstry to Sell Seized Property

Law & Lawyers By Gustavo A. Aparicio O. for the Panama AmericaThe Panamanian National Assembly has approved in second debate the new Law #315 regarding seized goods. When passed the Panamanian government will be able to sell or dispose of the millions of dollars of goods and property seized from people involved in drug trafficking, terrorism, financial crimes, or money laundering. According to the Secretary General of the Public Ministry Rigoberto González said there is more than $10 million dollars in cash that at the moment can not be used at all, not even to fight crime. There is other property such as cars, heavy equipment, houses, apartments and other things which are deteriorating because current law does not allow for their use or provide a means for them to be disposed of. He said that is approximately $4 million dollars worth of goods, materials, real estate, and cash that has been seized, but that the persons involved have not been identified and that under current law the cases can not move forward and also the state does not have any way of disposing of the property or use the materials to fight crime. The bill establishes that when authorities seize goods or materials, and when the maintenance or custody of those materials proves difficult or impossible for the Public Ministry, then the Public Ministry can process the materials in administrative processes, which will be done applying the rules relative to public contracting.
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Assembly Debating Creation of National Handicapped Secretariat

Law & Lawyers By Isidro Rodríguez for the Panama America - Security elements of the National Assembly had to restrict entry yesterday. The debates over a bill that would create the National Handicapped Secretariat (SENADIS) was met by shouts and struggles. Professors from the Panamanian Institute of Special Education (IPHE), parents, and representatives of associations of handicapped people, marched toward the National Assembly but only seven people were allowed to enter, which angered marchers. Ariadna Petterson, of the Association of Educators, said they presented a proposal to analyze of the bill "article by article" which, she said, "contravenes Panamanian laws", although she did not give details.
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Panamanian Court Orders $537 Million Dollar Seizure

Law & Lawyers By José Arcia for La Prensa - On Friday, 1 June 2007, the Marine Court of Panama ordered the seizure of property of the company Petroterminal of Panama (PTP) and other companies who own crude oil and the ship that was being filled in the port when the oil spill ocurred on 4 February 2007 in Chiriquí Grande in Bocas del Toro. The seizure, for goods valued at up to $537 million dollars, including cleanup and legal costs, came about after the judge of the First Marine Court, Calixto Malcom, admitted a demand presented by lawyer Silvio Guerra against the companies. The bond assigned for this seizure was $5,000 according to Guerra. In the suit presented by Guerra, and the seizure order of property by judge Malcolm, also goes against the companies Castor Petroleum (owner of the crude that was spilled), Romantic Navigation Inc. (owner of the boat "Petrovsk," that was receiving the crude during the spill), The West of England Shipowners (the company that insured the ship), Northville Industries and Ecopetrol. The company spokesperson for PTP, Vox Communications, said yesterday that the Board of Directors of the compan will not make a public statement until their lawyers review the judicial action ordered by the Marine Court of Panama.
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Report Says Panama's "Politicized" Judicial System Affects Banks

Law & Lawyers By Xenia De León for the Panama America - In Panama and the rest of Latin America the the judicial system "is politicized or is very inefficient", which affects banking, according to the study "Banking in Latin America: Obstacles and Recommendations", presented yesterday during XXIII Latin American Congress of Foreign trade. Alexis Arjona, president of the Banking Association of Panama, recognized that the judicial system is inoperative, and that the problems in the system are reflected in the bankruptcy cases of Fotokina and El Triangulo. Liliana Rojas Suárez, creator of the study, said that Panama is in 89th position out of a total of 117 nations evaluated.
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Jean Figali Loses Concession To Build a Marina on Amador

Law & Lawyers By Mónica Palm for La Prensa - Group F. Internacional, which has been ignoring orders to stop working on their project to build a marina of Amador, has exhausted the patience of Panama's Maritime Authority (AMP) and National Environmental Authority (ANAM). Yesterday both organizations took more energenic actions against the company run by Jean Figali. Both the AMP and ANAM say the work being done by Group F. are not part of a marina as authorized in the contracts of concession awarded by the AMP and authorized by the ANAM in their Environmental Impact Study. The AMP ordered Group F. to stop working and to remove their equipment from the area last October, an order that has been ignored by Figali. The AMP communicated their decision yesterday to Figali to "resolve administratively" both of the concession contracts he has with the organization. The first contract dated May 2002 allows them to fill 3.7 hectares and the second, dated October 2002, allows them to fill an additional 4 hectares. According to Rubén Arosemena, the Second Vice-President of Panama and the Administrator of the AMP, Group F. has violated several elements of both contracts, and has completed landfill operations that are "far from the original request in the concession." Arosemena said that Group F., has "closed off" the concession area without any kind of authorization, with the intention "to turn ocean areas into landfill." For their part ANAM said these works are not within the approved Environmental Impact Study and therefore they ordered the project to be suspended yesterday. In addition they have started an investigation.
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HSBC vs. Peter Gordon - La Prensa Prints an Opinion Letter

Law & Lawyers by DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - As many of you already know, HSBC has sued an English speaking member of the expatriate community in Panama, Mr. Peter Gordon from Australia, for defamation and for economic damages to their bank. Their complaint is based primarily on a series of emails that appeared on the Americans in Panama Yahoo! email group. I had heard a rumor that HSBC was suing Mr. Gordon and have already published most of the primary facts surrounding this case in "And This is Why You Can't Just Run Your Mouth...", "Put That In Your PIF And Smoke It", and "Update on HSBC vs. Peter Gordon". I continue to follow the case in Panama's Supreme Court, and last week the Justices decided to return the request for appeal from the lawyers of the Geelong Foundation for corrections. (more)
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Judge Orders Detention of Carlos Jones

Law & Lawyers Judge Silverio Rodríguez Henríquez of Panama's Fourth Circuit Criminal Court cancelled bail for lawyer Carlos Antonio Jones Robinson and ordered his immediate arrest and transfer to a penitentiary center while his case is being heard for the crime of vehicular manslaughter in relation to the deaths of Toribio Díaz and Nicolasa Vásquez de Díaz. The judge ruled to grant a request presented last 25 April 2007 by lawyer Sidney Sitton, acting on behalf of Toribio Diaz Vásquez, asked for Jones to remain in custody while the case is being heard. The court had decided to grant bail to Carlos Jones and had specified a time period to establish a bail bond. This obligation was not completed and the court order was ignored, which is why the judge ordered Jones' detention. In a hearing held on 10 April 2007, the judge gave Jones ten days to establish a $50,000 bail bond in order to remain free while the case is being decided. According to information made available from the Fourth Circuit Court and the Fourteenth Circuit Prosecutor's office, the property given as a guarantee does not cover the $50,000 amount imposed for Mr. Jones to remain free. Judge Rodriguez said Jones had until 24 April 2007 to establish the bail bond, and that he failed to comply within the specified time period. Aurelio Martínez, Gil Ponce Palace of Justice, Ancon, Panama
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Migratory Status of Foreigners Will Be Regulated

Law & Lawyers By Osiris Jurado for La Estrella de Panama - The Human Rights Commission met to present the first draft of a new law that would dictate exceptional measures to offer a new immigration status for those foreigners who have remained in the country for long periods of time. The initiative tries to make it easier for foreigners who have been in Panama as refugees for more than 15 years to obtain permanent residence status. There are currently 1,014 refugees who have been in Panama between nine and fifteen years and another 500 that have been in Panama for more than 15 years, as reported by the National Organization for Refugees in Panama (OMPAR). The president of the Human Rights Commission of the National Assembly Rogelio Paredes said the new law will only benefit those who have not had any legal problems in Panama, and in addition they will have to pay a lawyer $150 per person to submit their request.
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Alvin Weeden Files Criminal Complaints Against Balladares

Law & Lawyers By Juan Manuel Díaz C. for the Panama America - The dispute between the ex-Comptroller of Panama Alvin Weeden and ex- president Ernesto Perez Balladares came back to life yesterday. Weeden filed a criminal complaint against Ballesteros with the Public Ministry for criminal slander and liable. According to Weeden, Balladares has slandered him on several opinion programs in the last week, prompting him to make a formal denouncement to authorities. The differences between Weeden and Perez Balladares go back to December of 2003, when Weeden presented an accusation against Balladares saying he was involved in corruption case for receiving dividends from the Ports Engineering and Consultants Corp (PECC). Perez Balladares did not remain quiet and and said in several declarations that he is waiting for a file from the United States to unmask Weeden. Perez Balladares also announced the presentation of legal actions against Weeden for making "unfounded" accusations.
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Proposed Law Would Eliminate the PTJ and Create the OIC

Law & Lawyers By Osiris Jurado for La Estrella de Panama - The Executive Cabinet approved a new law yesterday that would eliminate the Judicial Technical Police (PTJ) and turn it into a new office under the control of the Attorney General. The new organization will be known as the Criminal Investigation Organization (OIC). The bill has 38 articles. Sooner or later it will be passed to the National Assembly, which is only waiting to see the final revisions suggested by Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez, who met yesterday to "exchange opinions on the subject" with several ex-directors of the PTJ like Leslie Loaiza, Oswaldo Fernández, Jaime Abad, Gabriel Castro and Rodolfo Aguilera. Abad considers the changes to be both necessary and positive for the Executive, and said that the actual system in Panama is the one left in place by the Americans after the Just Cause invasion. "This system needs to be updated," he added. He went on to say that the new reform points to this direction because it includes a scientific reorganization which gives a sense of stability to the institution, because in the past the only changes that were made to the PTJ were to "satisfy political appetites to see who is named or dismissed as its director". In addition to Ana Matilde Gomez, others who participated from the office of the Judge Advocate General of the Nation included Solicitor Secretary General Rigoberto González, the auxiliary public prosecutor Luis Martinez, and two other Public Ministry employees. The Executive branch has not said when they will present the bill to the National Assembly because the Public Ministry could include legal considerations required before the bill can be sent.
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Gringo Victim of Fraud

Law & Lawyers El Siglo A criminal complaint was filed yesterday before the Auxiliary Office of the Public Prosecutor of Panama against lawyers Alfredo Vallarino Alemán, Ernesto Mora Valentine, Luis Mendoza Pérez, Ruperto Antonio Henry Marshall, Gustavo Alberto Troncoso Luna y Gustavo Alberto Troncoso Ferrari, for the presumed crimes of fraud, illegal appropriation, theft and prevarication against American businessman Richard James Schueler. According to the complaint filed by Schueler's lawyer Gabriel Lawson, the accused presumably too control of eighteen joint-stock companies owned by Schueler that were first established by lawyers Troncoso Luna and Troncoso Ferrari. In January 2007 Schueler contracted lawyer Mora Valentine, Mendoza Pérez y Vallarino Alemán (previously condemned to prison as the ringleader of the "Rolex Robbers") for them to take legal action against Troncoso Luna and Troncoso Ferrari who at that time were fighting over the properties and their ownership. However, according to the penal complaint, Schueler "realized he was being deceived by Vallarino Alemán, Mora Valentine y Mendoza Pérez, who "did not and have not provided more details regarding what they have done, but have been evasive, lying, and sending anonymous emails." (more)
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Groups Ask Torrijos to Veto New Penal Code

Law & Lawyers By Elsa M. González and Leonardo Flores for La Prensa - The National Assembly approved controversial modifications to Panama's Penal Code last Thursday, and Panama's President Martin Torrijos said that he has not yet seen the text of the new law as it was passed. When asked if he would veto the law as requested by Panama's Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez and journalists, Torrijos responded by saying that he wanted to see "how the law turned out." Torrijos made his statements yesterday after the conclusion of a meeting of his Cabinet in Las Tablas. Alma Montenegro de Fletcher, the Executive Secretary of the Transparency International, added her voice to those requesting a presidential veto, as did businessman and social activist Enrique de Obarrio. Montenegro de Fletcher asked Torrijos to veto the articles addressing crimes against public administration, and Obarrio requested Torrijos to veto those articles having to do with freedom of expression. The President of Panama's School of Lawyers and a member of the commission that drew up the proposed law Mercedes de Grimaldo said that "the reduction of penalties assigned to (acts of corruption) goes against the trend of increasing penalties for all other criminal conduct, with the exception of the defamation and slander."
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Update on HSBC vs. Peter Gordon

Law & Lawyers Not really much new to tell. I know this situation is getting a lot of attention among the English speaking expat community. I was at the Supreme Court again this afternoon and was told that the file is now in front of the judge to be decided. In this case the Superior Court voted 2-1 to allow the frozen assets to remain frozen, and the Geelong Foundation is asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Superior Court's decision and to unfreeze the assets immediately. I informed the secretary that this case is getting a lot of attention among us gringos on two fronts - freedom of speech (or, protection from incessant *censored*ing depending on your point of view) and just how water-tight is your PIF. Let's see what they decide to do...
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Close, But No Karadzic; Accused War Criminal Still at Large

Law & Lawyers Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee Report for blogs.abcnews.com: A reported sighting in Panama of one of the most wanted men in the world, accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic, the former Serbian political leader, led to a four-nation police scramble and a raid on the homes of his son and daughter last week by NATO troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the end, it produced nothing more than another frustration for the authorities who have been seeking Karadzic since 1995 on war crimes charges involving the murders and rapes of thousands of Muslim civilians and the shelling of the city of Sarajevo. There is intense pressure to capture Karadzic, who could escape prosecution if he is not in custody by the time the war crimes tribunal expires in 2010. "That would absolutely be a disaster for justice," said Carla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal prosecutor in the Hague in the Netherlands. Law enforcement authorities tell ABC News the international scramble began last week when an American, who had been in Bosnia during the war, reported seeing a man he thought was Karadzic in the lobby of a hotel in Panama City, Panama. At the request of the FBI representative in Panama, the man was taken in for questioning by Panamanian authorities.
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International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Law & Lawyers The 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in Calendar Year 2005. Volume I covers drug and chemical control activities. Volume II covers money laundering and financial crimes.

Volume I: Drug and Chemical Control: Panama

I. Summary - As the only Pacific/Atlantic maritime and North/South America land connector, and a principal hemispheric air, financial, and communications hub, Panama is a major nexus for international crime and an important transshipment point for drugs destined for the United States and Europe. U.S. bilateral counternarcotics and law enforcement cooperation with the Torrijos Administration continues to improve. With USG assistance, the Government of Panama’s (GOP) law enforcement agencies are being restructured to enhance their ability to fulfill their missions. Assistance provided by the United States remains crucial to ensuring effective Panamanian law enforcement. Panama is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. (more...)

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"Panamanian Judges Are Not Lazy" - Dixon

Law & Lawyers According to the President of Panama's Supreme Court Graciela Dixon, "it is not true that Panamanian judges are lazy and they do not resolve cases. Statistics show that each judge in Panama decides an average of two cases per day, that is to say they dictate two sentences per day," she told members of the International Rotary Club. At a conference called the Project to Modernize the Judicial Branch, held on 27 February 2007 at the Union Club, Dixon added that the work of judges is not only to dictate sentences and that their work is much more complex. They must organize hearings, gather evidence, and investigate cases, sometimes out of the courtroom. "If in spite of being over-tasked, that our judges can dictate an average of two sentences per day or ten per week, in a year that level of production does not reflect what could scientifically be defined as lazy, but rather what we would call an unacceptable work load on our civil employees," she said. Judge Dixon said she was not trying to justify anything bur rather she was looking for solutions. She said that in a study they conducted showed that for every twelve cases that enter the system the judges resolve ten. She added that due to the way the judicial system is designed, the laws that are on the books, and the human and economic resources made available that the judicial branch would never, with this equation, be able to clear out the judicial backlog. (more...)
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