Thursday 15th September 2022.

September 15, 2022

On the third day of the preliminary hearing of the Odebrecht case – cataloged as the most emblematic corruption process in recent times – the reading of the prosecutor’s hearing by the Public Ministry (MP) continued. The session of this Wednesday, September 14, 2022, which is chaired by Judge Baloísa Marquínez , began at 9:06 a.m. At noon, a recess was decreed in the preliminary hearing, which then resumed at 2:00 pm. Until noon the reading of the tax hearing had been advanced up to page 314. It should be remembered that the tax hearing consists of 810 pages ( 931, if the annexes are counted). Citizens in general, take advantage of the fact that [the hearing] is public so that they can hear first-hand the narration of the case. That gives you the opportunity to know what was investigated, what facts were investigated, which were corroborated, who are the linked people, who are former public servants linked and can know everything that was investigated, “said prosecutor Ruth Morcillo upon arrival at the court. Morcillo also recalled that an agreement has already been reached with the Odebrecht company for allegedly committing an injury to the Panamanian State in excess of 220 million dollars. “There may be more […] something indisputable is that the Panamanian State has been a victim of this laundering committed by officials and individuals,” she added. This case was investigated for the crime against the economic order, in the form of money laundering, typified in Book II, Title VII, Chapter IV of the Penal Code , which establishes a sentence of 5 to 12 years in prison (articles 254 and 255) and from 5 to 10 years (article 256), respectively.

The third deputy liquidator judge of criminal cases of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama, Fernando Basurto, accepted this September 13 the law “to analyze and qualify” the accumulated file of three investigations followed by 15 people for the alleged crimes of money laundering and fraud carried out through the liquidated Financial Pacific brokerage house . The file consists of 210 volumes, the Judicial Branch highlighted in a statement. The hearing took place over two days: September 12 and 13. Both the discharge prosecutor of the Public Ministry, Nivia Lorenzo Díaz, as well as Martín Guillén, plaintiff attorney representing a banking entity, requested -after their allegations- a call to trial for the accused. The investigations accumulated in a single process are related to a complaint filed by the Superintendency of the Securities Market for alleged money laundering, the other complaint is related to alleged irregular transactions of Jal Offshore company through Financial Pacific and the other process is regarding a lawsuit filed by Caye Bank against former directors of the liquidated brokerage house for an alleged scam of 12 million dollars.

The director of the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, José Vicente Pachar, highlighted at noon this Wednesday, September 14, that the recommendation of 52 million dollars for his budget could affect the services offered by the entity he heads. Pachar, who recalled that in 2022 the institute had a budget of 48 million dollars, said that they request 62 million dollars for 2023 and thus achieve the plans they have. “62 million is the estimated figure of our experts and practically 52 million are being recommended to us, there is a considerable difference that will affect if it continues along the same line in the development of functions and the provision of expert functions,” explained the official. When asked about what would be the cuts that are recommended in the budget, Pachar indicated that basically it would be in the line of investments. “We do not have sufficient funds to be able to invest in new premises, laboratories and neither for equipment maintenance,” he insisted. Pachar recalled that the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences makes responsible use of 100% of the funds they receive. The director’s statements were given upon leaving the Budget Committee of the National Assembly, where he supported the budget for next year.

Three alleged victims of human trafficking were rescued in an operation carried out by the First Prosecutor’s Office Against Organized Crime and the National Police. As a result of this operation, a man of Colombian nationality was apprehended. The victims, who were rescued in the Bella Vista area, will be sent to the Secretary for the Protection of Victims, Witnesses, Experts and other participants in the criminal process, of the Public Ministry, it was reported. According to the authorities, this man was apprehended during the night of Tuesday, September 13, at the Tocumen International Airport, at the time he intended to leave the country for Colombia. It should be remembered that last month the Galaxy operation was developed, through which a network dedicated to the human trafficking of foreign women was dismantled; three men were captured in this case.

The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) rejected an appeal filed by the defense of the former Ombudsman, Patria Portugal, and upheld the sentence of 8 years in prison applied by the former Eighth Criminal Circuit Court for the crime of embezzlement. In addition, it maintains the accessory penalty of 48 months of disqualification from exercising public functions. According to the Public Ministry, the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office managed to get the Court to confirm the decision, issued by the court on May 25, 2020. This is the product of an investigation into two contracts that Portugal signed as Ombudsman (April 2011-July 2013), one of them with the company Imaginarium Studio, SA, for an amount of $249,845, for the redesign of the entity’s website, and the other for $199,983, for training, awarded to the company En Avant, SA The case came to light as a result of a journalistic investigation by La Prensa . Consequently, the then head of the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information, Abigail Benzadón, (2013), and the lawyer José Antonio Moncada filed a complaint with the Public Ministry. The complaints were accumulated in a single process.

The separated priest Arístides Rodríguez Otero, 60, was called to trial on September 13 during the accusation hearing held by the guarantee judge, Erick Polanco, in Chiriquí. Rodríguez Otero, who remains in provisional detention in the Chiriquí prison, is accused of crimes against freedom and sexual integrity, in the modalities of aggravated rape, libidinous acts and obscene exhibitionism, to the detriment of a minor under 5 years of age. The judge made the decision after hearing the support for the accusation presented by Kaira Kant on behalf of the Public  Polanco admitted 35 pieces of testimonial evidence, 14 documentary evidence and six expert evidence, presented by the prosecution, the public defense and the plaintiff in which they allegedly link the priest, who has been detained since April 2021. The date of the oral trial will be next February 13, 2023, at 9:00 am, at the facilities of the Accusatory Penal System in the district of David. During the hearing, the priest’s lawyers requested a change of precautionary measure for their client from provisional detention to home detention, after alleging health problems. However, the guarantee judge denied the request.

The discussions of the 172 articles of bill 841, “which modifies the law and regulates the acquisition of medicines and other products for human health, in the public sector and dictates other provisions”, ended in the Labor, Health and Labor Development of the National Assembly . The next step this week is to review the proposals and opinions on the project made by the various unions and associations, to add them to the final document and approve it in the first debate. The president of the Labor, Health and Labor Development Commission, the deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party Daniel Ramos, stated that he hopes that in a matter of days, in accordance with the chosen work methodology, the concerns can be collected, the first debate concluded and to take the proposal to the plenary session of the National Assembly. According to Ramos, the bill was improved with the input of all the sectors involved. In fact, he specified that in the last discussion block, 34 new articles were approved, 8 were modified and another 4 were eliminated.

Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank had projected a growth of 7.5% and 6.5% for Panama this year, respectively, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Hécctor Alexander, revealed that the country will grow by 5%. According to Alexander, Panama’s growth projection will be 5% during 2022 and that projection is “conservative” given that in the first quarter the national economy grew 13.6% and the monthly economic index to June was 13.2%. The minister revealed these economic markers during the “Day of Panama, Opportunities in the financial sector (Panama Day, Opportunities in the Financial Sector)”, which was organized by the Authority for the Attraction of Investments and the Promotion of Exports of Panama (ProPanamá ) and the Panama-United States Chamber of Commerce (Panus). In his speech, via Zoom, the official reminded the participants of Panama Day, gathered in New York City, of the contribution of the banking sector and the Panama Canal. In April it was revealed that according to international estimates Panama would be one of the fastest growing countries in 2022. At its spring meetings in April, the IMF updated the World Economic Outlook (WEO) and raised the estimate for Panama from 5% to 7.5%. “We have one of the highest gross domestic products (GDP) per capita in the region and in recent years, Panama has been converging with advanced economies by consolidating its competitive advantages and expanding new sources of growth,” Alexander recalled.

The Minister for Canal Affairs, Aristides Royo , will attend on behalf of Panama the state funeral in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, an event that will take place in London on Monday, September 19. This was reported by personnel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to this medium. The funeral is expected to be attended by world leaders and representatives from various countries. London is preparing to welcome tens of thousands of people into its streets for Monday’s events. Yesterday, Wednesday, the queen’s coffin was carried in procession on a Royal Artillery carriage to Westminster Hall, where it will remain in a funeral shrine until the funeral next Monday. For four days she will rest in this place, where citizens will be able to enter to pay their respects to her.

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