Thursday 1st September 2022.

September 1, 2022

On March 19, 2018, the deputy director of the Office of International Affairs of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Criminal Division, William Ho-Gonzalez, sent a letter to his Panamanian counterpart, José Antonio Candanedo, Senior Prosecutor for International Affairs of the Attorney General’s Office. The letter was a request for assistance in the Odebrecht case, which involved, among others, the main company of the Martinelli group: Importadora Ricamar, SA (Irisa). “The investigation has revealed that the subjects of the investigation transferred funds to accounts located in Panama and from these, to facilitate corrupt payments to foreign officials, ” the request states, referring to companies controlled by Odebrecht. Specifically, what the DOJ wanted were “the records of the Panamanian banks” of the accounts that those companies had or could have in Panama. Ho-Gonzalez summarily described Odebrecht’s money laundering operations on behalf of corrupt officials in various Latin American countries. For example, the US prosecutor cited the case of a ruling by the 13th Court of the Federal Criminal District of Curitiba (Brazil) – dated March 8, 2016 – which referred to bank accounts used by Odebrecht in several countries, such as Panama. “This sentence identified an account in the name of Constructora Internacional del Sur, held at Cridicorp Bank, in Panama” , indicates the request, a company that, together with Select Engineering Consulting Services and several other companies, transferred abroad and locally – from that bank – hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes. A relevant piece of information in this request is that the DOJ reveals that it obtained a copy of the Drousys software, a tool that few countries use. Drousys was Odebrecht’s encrypted communications system to move dirty money – through its financial operators – to corrupt officials on the continent. In other words, the DOJ is in possession of the software that stored Odebrecht’s corrupt daily payment schedules, managed by the Structured Operations Division or Odebrecht’s bribery department. However, these forms, although they indicate the amount of bribes that were paid daily, the projects from which the funds came and their destination, only mention the beneficiaries by their nicknames. In the case of Panama: Águia, Explorer, Cachaça,  Periquitas, etc. They obtained from Drousys the names of 52 entities ( companies) based in Panama and “in relation to the illicit activities of the Structured Operations Division” and that they would have had accounts in at least 27 local and foreign banks licensed to carry out their activities in the country. In addition, the Americans asked the Public Ministry of Panama for the bank records of 47 companies with accounts in 25 local and foreign banks established in the country. Several of these companies investigated by the DOJ are related to companies belonging to the family of former President Ricardo Martinelli , including the most important of the group of Martinelli Companies: Importadora Ricamar, SA (Irisa), which is the corporate name of the Super 99. Prosecutor Ho-Gonzalez asked the MP to investigate 16 Irisa bank accounts in 9 banks, namely: Bac International Bank (2); Allied Bank (1); General Bank (1); National Bank of Panama (2); Panama Bank (2); Banistmo (1); Bank of Nova Scotia (1); Global Bank (2); Scotia Bank-“transforming” (4). Consequently, being one of the largest companies, Irisa was the one with the largest number of bank accounts that the DOJ asked to investigate.

Officials from the National Police and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor managed this Wednesday, to capture Aaron Arosemena, who allegedly participated in the clandestine vaccination days against covid-19 carried out in the Coco del Mar and Punta Pacifica sectors in 2021. Sources from the Public Ministry confirmed that Arosemena was arrested in the Vacamonte area, during an investigation carried out by the National Police. According to the investigations, Arosemena is the person who accompanied Matías Pérez Escudero on the vaccination days organized in the Coco del Mar Suites building on June 7, 2021 and the other held in Punta Pacifica. For this Thursday, September 1, the start of the intermediate phase of the process followed by Pérez Escudero and Celine Gazal de Esses for alleged crimes against public health, forgery of documents and illegal exercise of the profession is scheduled. In this case, this Tuesday, August 30, Denise Vega, investigated in this file, reached a sentence agreement of 48 months in prison, which will be effective once the trial is over.

President Laurentino Cortizo sanctioned the two executive decrees that regulate Law No. 242 of October 13, 2021, which regulates the medicinal and therapeutic use of cannabis in the country. One of those signed regulations creates the National Directorate for Monitoring Activities Related to Medicinal Cannabis in Panama. The decrees have not yet been published in the Official Gazette. The decree regulates the use and access of the product and its derivatives, for therapeutic, medical, veterinary, scientific and research purposes throughout the country. “Panama has one of the strongest regulations at the regional level for the use of cannabis for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, and thus provides relief to thousands of patients who have waited for this solution for many years,” said Cortizo. The regulation will be applicable to legal entities that import, export, plant, cultivate and market cannabis and its derivatives for medicinal or scientific purposes, clarified the press release from the General Directorate of Communications. An important point of this rule is that the data of patients enrolled in the National Program for the Study and Medicinal Use of Cannabis and its derivatives are protected. For its part, a decree creates the National Directorate for the Monitoring of Activities Related to Medicinal Cannabis, which will be attached to the Ministry of Public Security. This directorate will be made up of officials from the National Police, the National Aeronaval Service, the National Border Service and ministry liaisons specialized in security. Cortizo recalled that “the marketing of the products will be done under strict import control with a traceability program that includes monitoring, from the cultivation areas to the laboratories and final sale points.”

The administrator of the Authority for Consumer Protection and Defense of Competition (Acodeco), Jorge Quintero, revealed, that they depend on the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) to obtain the necessary funds to carry out all their new tasks. . Quintero plans to go next Monday, September 4, to the Budget Commission of the National Assembly to support his budget for 2023. He reiterated that at the moment they depend on the MEF for the 2023 budget issue. “We have sent the documentation and notes to the MEF… I think it is on the right track.” Quintero refers to the fact that Acodeco must verify in local businesses the sale of products with ceiling prices and marketing margin, due to the reduction of their import tariffs. Due to the agreements of the national dialogue held in Penonomé, which is in recess until September 2, an expanded basic food basket was established. There is also another list of medicines that must be sold to the consumer with a 30% discount and to retirees the 20% discount established by law is added. When asked what irregularities had been found in local businesses, Quintero recalled that any new regulation entails a somewhat traumatic process to ensure that it is complied with. “At the beginning we did find quite a few irregularities and anomalies, but they have already decreased… I can say that there are between 15% and 20% of issues where the products are not found,” said Quintero. But they also recalled that if the economic agent did not sell that product, he does not have the obligation to have it under the price control regulations. However, if you sell it you must have that product with “the top price of Executive Decree No. 13 or with the indicated marketing margin”, which is in the order between 15% and 20%.

Copa Airlines celebrated its 75th anniversary with an event at the airline’s hangar 2 at the Tocumen International Airport, where it unveiled a 737-800NG aircraft, with a retro design and colors, one of the old aircraft operated by the company between 1988 and 2005 with the colors red and yellow. “With this Boeing 737-800 NG painted in the colors that our fleet wore at the beginning of the 1990s, we want to commemorate a key time in our history, when we began what would come to be called the Hub of the Americas and the transformation of Copa in the leading airline in the region. It is a story that is full of great commitment and achievements, but above all, the great effort of our people to overcome all the challenges we have encountered along the way and proudly carry the Panamanian flag through the skies of America for 75 years” commented Pedro Heilbron, executive president of Copa Airlines. Heilbron stressed that the company has successfully weathered the ravages of the pandemic and is preparing to enter a recovery phase. He indicated that to date they have managed to reach 90% of the seat availability for the flights they offered before the pandemic, and are heading for a full financial recovery in the coming years. By the end of 2022, the Airline will have generated more than 1,300 new jobs in Panama, in various positions: cabin crew, pilots, operating personnel, aviation mechanics and administrative personnel. These contracts are supported by the efforts and investments that the airline is making in the Latin American Aviation Academy (ALAS), the Aeronautical Technicians Academy (ATA) and the Cabin Crew Academy, created with the mission of training technical workforce Panamanian trained with the highest international standards in the industry.

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