Friday 14th April 2023.

April 13, 2023


Bill 625 , which adopts the legislation for extinction of illegal assets, has taken a series of turns since April 2021, when the Minister of Public Security, Juan Manuel Pino, presented it to the National Assembly.

The document has gone through subcommittees, conversations, forums and even tours in Colombia. It has received multiple criticisms and even caused a confrontation between the Executive and the Legislative.

These days, the legislative initiative is in a technical table directed by the pro-government deputy Corina Cano . Lawyers, deputies and representatives of civil society participate in it. Up until, Wednesday, the table had reached consensus on at least 20 of the 93 articles of the original project.

In the middle of the discussion in the technical table of the Assembly, an alarm was triggered: unbelievably there was no consensus for this legislation to be applicable in cases of crimes against public administration. Several of those who participate in the discussion informed La Prensa that the matter was ignored by the deputies and some lawyers who are just not interested in the fact that the forfeiture of illegal assets can be applied in cases of corruption.

The original project, in its fourth article, stated that the rule would be applicable to ” all activities classified as criminal, at the discretion of the domain forfeiture judge, even when no final conviction has been handed down in the criminal jurisdiction .” It sought to cover all crimes, obviously including corruption.

However, with the modifications made to the proposal, a “catalog of crimes” was created that would be affected by said law, several of them to combat organized crime, drug trafficking and other related crimes such as extortion, fraud, robbery, homicide, human trafficking, migrant smuggling and money laundering. Not a trace of crimes against public administration.

The former president of the National Bar Association, José Alberto Álvarez, expressed his disagreement with the exclusion of this crime. Álvarez maintained that an article should even be added to the norm to declare the non-prescription of the same.

“For me as a Panamanian it is more important that this law allows the investigation of ill-gotten riches, product of robberies from the public treasury. I believe that crimes against public administration should be imprescriptible. That an official who even takes a cent from the State, if he leaves the country never again can he return, because where he sets foot he must be imprisoned in perpetuity. We have to finish this, it is the only way to fight corruption, ”he said.

Álvarez said that he is not afraid of a law for extinction of illegal assets, although he stated that his interest is that it not only apply to drug trafficking crimes.

The lawyer and founder of the Trinka Panama movement, Carlos Ernesto González De La Lastra , described as “outrageous” that crimes against public administration have been excluded from the debate. He pointed out that the forfeiture of ownership would be the first positive act in the fight against corruption.

“Having left out this type of crime is perfectly irresponsible and a very serious mistake that threatens Panamanian society,” he added.

For her part, Leah Cedeño de Boersner , vice president of the Fundación Espacio Cívico , who has attended the sessions of the technical panel as an observer, maintained that the exclusion of this crime, according to what she has been able to observe in the Assembly, is due to them, they could be an obstacle to the final approval of the bill.

“We have been able to count on national and international experts and throughout this time the National Assembly has made it known, through different means, that the inclusion of crimes against public administration could prevent the approval of the law. In many countries in the region, domain forfeiture began with a reduced coverage until later consensus was generated on the need to expand its scope of application”, he explained.

Another who expressed his opinion on the matter was the lawyer Ariel Corbetti , who has participated in the discussions of the technical panel. He said that although the original bill was poorly structured, which led him to oppose it at first, it would be a shame to lose the opportunity to send a loud and clear message to the country that you want to fight corruption.

“Most of the participants of the technical table have preferred not to include, within the catalog of crimes, those linked to corruption and crimes against the administration. This does not mean that all of us who have been there agree with that. When it goes up to the commission [of Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs] and the debates take place, we will know if the deputies will have understood the need to include these crimes and to send a positive message to the country saying that the extinction of domain is not only going to fight against organized crime, mafias, gangs, drug trafficking and crimes considered serious, but it will also serve to fight these crimes that make up daily scandals in the country”, added Corbetti.

The lawyer Mayra Rodríguez , who represents the World Compliance Association , pointed out that the table established that only those crimes that are related to organized crime would be included, since some of those who took the floor stated that the law could serve “to pass political bills”. In the discussions, the participation of Alfredo Vallarino, one of former President Ricardo Martinelli’s lawyers, has been seen, although Vallarino has said that he is there in a personal capacity.

Rodríguez does not rule out that changes or adjustments can be made on the fly to strengthen the bill, although for the moment the discussion only points to the fact that the norm would be applicable only to organized crime.

The Second Liquidating Court for Criminal Cases declared in absentia and ordered the preventive detention with a red alert from Interpol , of three investigated for the alleged commission of the crime of money laundering in the New Business case , an investigation that tracks the purchase of Editora Panamá América, SA (Epasa), supposedly with public funds.

This was reported this Thursday, April 13, by the Judicial Branch, in a statement in which it also explained that the suspension of the processing of the process and the term of the prescription of criminal action for these people was decreed.

According to Order 2 of March 20, they are Pía María Tolomei Friguerio, Isabella Bruno Tolomei Friguerio and Dina María Ochy Diez . The Judiciary, according to the statement, does not know the whereabouts of these people.

The court also ordered the suspension of the case for another of those investigated. This request was made based on articles 259 and 267 of the Electoral Code , article 85 of the current Penal Code , as well as article 15 of Law 15 of May 10, 2005, which ratifies the United Nations Convention against the corruption.

The favored party is David Ochy Diez (Dina Ochy’s brother), who alleges criminal electoral jurisdiction, as a presidential candidate in the primaries of the Realizado Metas (RM) party. Ochy would face Ricardo Martinelli himself , president and founder of RM; Francisco Ameglio Jr. , and Rubén Darío Campos in the primaries that this party will hold on June 4.

The statement from the Judicial Branch also details that the court admitted 37 testimonial evidence, five expert statements and five testimonial evidence from the Public Ministry. And they also rejected several of the defendants.

La Prensa reported on this issue in the note entitled The evidence of the New Business case and the strategy of the parties , published in the edition of Thursday, April 13, 2023.

The trial of the New Business case is scheduled for Monday, April 17. As an alternative date, in case of suspension, May 23 was scheduled. One of the defendants is former President Ricardo Martinelli.

The National Customs Authority , classified as “restricted access information” the price list provided by car manufacturers to their local distributors.

The decision is embodied in resolution 38 of February 9, 2023, which was published, on  Wednesday, April 12, in the Official Gazette.

The document, signed by the entity’s director, Tayra Barsallo , and by the general secretary, Hitzebeth Buruyides, is protected by Law 6 of January 22, 2002, on Transparency; in Decree Law 1 of February 13, 2008, which created the National Customs Authority; and in Law 26 of April 17, 2013, which incorporated Panama into the Economic Integration Subsystem of the Central American Integration System.

However, the entity does not support the reasons why that decision was made.

Consulted on the subject, Guido Rodríguez , former deputy ombudsman and former Accounts Prosecutor, assured that this decision exceeds what is established in Law 6 of Transparency. He added that although the regulation allows the restriction of certain information that is in the hands of State agents, the declared sale price of the assemblers to the distributors, based on which import duties are paid, is not a commercial secret nor is it confidential business information.

“I think it is an excess, which adds to the already known opacity of this administration on various issues,” he said.

Article 14 of Transparency Law 6 of 2002 says that restricted access information may not be disclosed for a period of 10 years.

In August 2021, the Ministry of the Presidency of the government of Laurentino Cortizo declared that the minutes, notes and files of the President and Vice President of the Republic and the Cabinet Council are of “restricted access”, therefore, they cannot be disclose in a period of 10 years.

From this Friday, April 14 to Sunday, April 16, the marine section of the coastal strip will be closed at different times due to an international cycling competition .

The Traffic Operations Directorate of the Police and the Panamanian Cycling Federation (Fepaci) disclosed this week the route that the 2023 Central American Road Championship will have and the closing hours in the marine section.

The closure covers from the vicinity of the Seafood Market to the parking lot near the Amador Guerrero School, in the township of El Chorrillo.

On Friday, April 14 and Saturday, April 15, this road will be closed from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., while on Sunday the 16th the restriction to circulate on this section will be from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. p.m

Ronny Robinson, from Transit Operations, reported that during the closure of the marine section of the coastal strip 3, drivers coming from the western sector, via the Bridge of the Americas, must use Los Mártires avenue or the Balboa sector to arrive to their destinations in Panama City.

In the same way, he stressed that the vehicular roundabout in the vicinity of the seafood market will not be closed, but that mobility at this point will be affected at some point.

It was reported that residents of the surrounding areas will be able to move by alternate routes, since the agents of Transit Operations and the Transit and Land Transportation Authority are coordinating mobility in that area.

Pedalers from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will compete in this event, in both branches, and the first day is scheduled to start at 10:00 am this Friday with time trials.


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