Friday 26th May 2023.
May 25, 2023
The second day of the trial of 15 people for the New Business case, advanced on Wednesday, with the reading of the last pages of the mixed order to appeal to trial and the participation of the first witnesses, including two key actors provided by the prosecution: the merchant Gabriel Gaby Btesh and the lawyer Ricardo Chanis, who had an active participation in the purchase of Editora Panamá América, SA (Epasa), presumably with public funds.
From the document containing the arguments to call a trial, it was reiterated that for the acquisition of Epasa, in 2010, various corporate schemes were used with the purpose of obtaining money from companies that signed contracts with the State for infrastructure works, in the five-year period 2009-2014, when Ricardo Martinelli was President of the Republic.
In the investigation, it has been proven that Martinelli is the main shareholder of Epasa and is one of the 15 defendants who are currently on trial for alleged money laundering.
It was announced that commercial structures “pertinent to money laundering” were used, such as factoring , corporations, trusts, and false real estate purchase and sale contracts, among others, that in a period of two weeks (from December 15 to 29, 2010) allowed the collection of $43.9 million for the purchase of the media group, deposited in a “basket” account in the name of the New Business company. The transaction exceeded “by far its transactional profile declared at the time of opening the account”, according to the writ of summons to trial signed by Judge Baloisa Marquínez, in October 2022.
Gaby Btesh, a former member of Martinelli’s circle when he was president, was the first witness presented by the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime, in charge of investigating this process.
Btesh confessed that he received funds from David Ochy Diez, one of the owners of the contractor company Transcaribe Trading (TCT), to manage the purchase of Epasa. He even said that these instructions were given to him in writing. The contributions that he would make by TCT came from the payments he received as part of the contract he had with the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), for the design and construction of the Arraiján-La Chorrera highway.
On the podium, Btesh narrated that in December 2010, Martinelli called him and asked him to “please” receive some funds that Ochy would send, to transfer to the New Business account, “for the purchase of the newspaper Panama America ”.
“Having said that, Mr. David Ochy calls me and tells me that Mr. Ricardo Martinelli had called him to inform him that he had to transfer some money to the New Business account. When he told me the amount, $3 million, I informed him that it was too much money for me to receive and I had to ask my brother [Mike Btesh] and his partner [Danny David Cohen] for a favor, so that they would receive a part of the money for me. that Mr. Ochy was giving me,” he narrated.
Thus, Ochy issued three checks to the accounts of MDM, Fursys Latin Corp and Silver Bell Inc. These three companies received approximately $300,000 (each) from TCT. In addition, he explained, his personal accounts received about $2 million. He later bought cashier’s checks and these were deposited to the New Business account at Global Bank.
Now, all of them are accused: the Btesh brothers, the partner Danny Cohen and also David Ochy, although the latter is not part of this trial, since the procedural separation was declared in his regard, because he enjoys jurisdiction electoral exemption as a presidential candidate for Realizando Metas (RM), the party that Martinelli founded.
Btesh also said that he “had no relationship” with the New Business company and that he did not participate in the purchase of Epasa shares.
A Court of Appeals in Chiriquí endorsed this Thursday, May 25, maintaining the precautionary measure of provisional detention for the suspect in the femicide of the girl Lina Rojas, an event that occurred last February.
This was reported by the Public Ministry, who explained that during the appeals hearing, the Homicide and Femicide Section of the Chiriquí Prosecutor’s Office managed to maintain the measure against the 54-year-old man, while the investigations continue.
Lina Rojas, 10 years old, was found face down, with blows to her body, on February 9, 2023, in the back of her house in Alanje; Two days later, on February 11, the minor died in a room at the José Domingo De Obaldía hospital in Chiriquí.
With 23 votes in favor, deputy Jaime Vargas, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , was elected this Thursday, May 25 , as a candidate for president of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, deputy Ricardo Torres was elected for the first vice presidency. The second vice-presidency will be in the hands of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement
His election was made during a meeting between a group of PRD deputies and the National Executive Committee (CEN) . The new president of the Legislature is for the new period that starts on July 1.
The meeting was attended by several deputies, including: Abel Beker, Raúl Pineda, Cenobia Vargas, Roberto Ábrego, Héctor Brands, Luis Cruz, Jairo Bolota Salazar, Benicio Robinson, Ricardo Torres, Roberto Ayala, Arquesio Arias, Leandro Ávila, Eugenio Bernal , Nestor Tin Guardia, Melchor Herrera, Gonzalo González, Javier Sucre and Eric Broce.
12 deputies were absent, among them Crispiano Adames, current president of the Assembly; Kayra Harding and Victor Castillo.
It should be remembered that, these days, the PRD bench remains atomized by the presidential candidacy of José Gabriel Carrizo and that of deputy Adames.
At the meeting, Ariel Alba was elected as head of the bench and Abel Béker as deputy head.
The candidate for representative for the township of El Llano, in the district of Chepo, known as “Terka” was apprehended by units of the National Border Service (Senafront), together with the National Police and the Public Ministry, in an operation which took place on May 24, 2023.
The arrest of the woman occurred inside a residence located in the Altos del Llano neighbourhood, in the aforementioned district. During the search, her partner, nicknamed “El Cholo”, was also arrested.
In the procedure, the authorities were able to locate two bags that contained a white powder that is presumed to be cocaine. The alleged illicit substance was inside a school lunch box, which was hidden above the ceiling.
Both “Terka”, 35 years old, and her partner was brought before a guarantee judge in order to file charges.
Until now there are no reports of damage or people affected by the 6.6 magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale that occurred at around 10:00 pm on Wednesday May 24 between Panama and Colombia.
This was announced, in the morning hours of this Thursday, by the general director of the National Civil Protection System felt(Sinaproc), Carlos Rumbo.
According to a report from the United States Geological Survey, the tremor was recorded 42 kilometers from the Puerto Obaldía sector, in the Panamanian region of Guna Yala. The movement was felt both in Guna Yala and in the provinces of Panama, Darién, Panama Oeste, detailed Sinaproc. The official called on the population to remain calm when these situations arise, in addition to following the recommendations provided in case of emergencies.
Similarly, Rumbo reiterated that the country, through the Joint Task Force, is preparing to develop the third regional drill, in order to measure operational capabilities, techniques and emergency protocols.
On that occasion -he reported- a 7.5 magnitude earthquake will be simulated in the capital, including threats such as structured fires or collapsed buildings. There would also be an aftershock of a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Los Santos, which will affect Veraguas and Herrera, he added.
An earthquake of preliminary magnitude of 5.0 points was recorded on the morning of this Thursday, in Santiago, province of Veraguas.
The movement was felt both in Veraguas and in the provinces of Herrera, Los Santos and Coclé. According to the Institute of Geosciences of the University of Panama, the earthquake occurred at 6:36 am with a depth of 2 kilometers.
On its Twitter account, the National Civil Protection System indicated that no damages or injuries have been reported.