Thursday 21st March 2024.

March 20, 2024


Former president Ricardo Martinelli , as well as his close friends – such as Aurora Muradas Fraiz –, all accused of the crime of money laundering in the Odebrecht case , have submitted petitions to the Federal Supreme Court (STF, for its acronym in Portuguese) of Brazil, to so that evidence provided by the construction company itself is prevented from being used in its leniency agreement.

Magistrate José Antonio Dias Toffoli has already lent himself to this task, who through this practice has annulled numerous cases in Brazil and in some other countries.

The information was released by the Brazilian digital newspaper Metrópoles, which highlights that the petitions of Martinelli and Muradas Fraiz to Dias Toffoli have precedents in similar actions presented before the same magistrate by two other defendants in the Odebrecht case in Panama. These are Riccardo Francolini and Juan Antonio Niño , who already obtained the help of Dias Toffoli, who also provided judicial assistance to former Peruvian president Ollanta Humala , by removing the validity of the evidence presented against him in Peru.

Among the evidence presented by the Public Ministry of Panama against Martinelli and other defendants are the reports of Odebrecht informers and evidence extracted from the encrypted communication systems Drousys and MyWebDay B.

These systems were those used by the so-called Structured Operations Division or Box 2 of Odebrecht, to manage the payment of bribes to politicians and authorities in Brazil, Panama and the others where the Brazilian construction giant had a presence.

The content of the two communication systems was a central part of the leniency agreement that Odebrecht signed with the Brazilian authorities and constitutes evidentiary support for the statements of the complainants, evidence that has been unilaterally invalidated by Dias Toffoli.

The dismissal of this evidence has also been requested by financial operator Rodrigo Tacla Durán, an informer who escaped from Brazil and who testified in the Spanish press about the participation of Panamanian authorities in the Odebrecht corruption scheme.

Martinelli’s lawyers made another request to the magistrate: to prevent eight of the Odebrecht informers from being heard as witnesses in the Panamanian criminal case, whose trial is scheduled to take place between November 12 and December 19 of this year. and as an alternative date, the days between January 20 and February 28, 2025.

Martinelli’s defense alleges that his request is based on his opinion that if the evidence is null, his testimonies would also be null.

Martinelli’s lawyers also made the request on behalf of Muradas Fraiz, who, according to the Panamanian criminal case, received money from Odebrecht at the request of the former president.

Sources from the Public Ministry in Panama maintain that the case against the accused in Panama has, in addition to the accumulated evidence of the informers and Odebrecht’s communication systems, numerous other evidence emanating from international cooperation.

In addition, there are testimonies from former President Martinelli’s own children, in May 2022, in a court in New York, United States, in which they pleaded guilty to conspiring to receive bribes from Odebrecht, following instructions from their father. The children, who were expelled from the United States in January 2023, will also be tried in Panama.

There are also the confessions of front men who reached sentencing agreements in Panama.

Rómulo Roux , presidential candidate of the allied parties Cambio Democrático (CD) and Panameñista , withdrew from the lawsuit filed before the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) against the nomination of José Raúl Mulino , his rival for the Realizing Goals parties ( RM) and Alliance.

“I have said from day one that if Martinelli runs, let him run; If Mulino runs, let him run. We don’t have time to get distracted by that. “We have been focused on our campaign, on touring the country, on presenting our proposal, on defending our proposal,” said Roux at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama, where this Wednesday, March 20, the candidates received the Country Agenda 2024-2029, a document with vital topics for the development of Panama.

Is Mulino’s candidacy constitutional or unconstitutional? The journalists asked Roux.

“I’m not going to get into that, because then they think the comment I could make is political. That issue now falls to the Supreme Court of Justice. And what the Court decides is what we all have to abide by,” he replied.

The president of the Electoral Tribunal (TE), Alfredo Juncá , and the head of the General Directorate of Revenue (DGI), Publio De Gracia , met this Wednesday in Washington, where they are carrying out individual visits with United States authorities.

In the case of the latter, DGI personnel are attending a work hearing, following an invitation extended by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS-CI) to meet in Washington for a week. (March 18 to 22).

This is the second time that the IRS-CI invites DGI staff, since last December, a meeting was held – also in Washington – with the head of this division, James Lee, to address issues related to the investigations they carry out jointly on possible tax crimes.

De Gracia’s visit to Washington this month is to follow up on bilateral efforts against tax crimes. This meeting would conclude this Friday.

The DGI is currently carrying out several high-profile tax investigations in which the United States counterpart has shown interest.

Regarding the presence of Judge Juncá in Washington, the reason for his visit has not been revealed, although the photograph that accompanies this note shows him with De Gracia in the vicinity of the J. Edgar Hoover building – the headquarters of the offices of the FBI in the United States – located on Northwest Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington DC

The meeting between almost all the candidates for mayor of the capital this Tuesday, March 19, was a lesson in political civility for the candidates for the presidential seat.

Unlike the first two presidential debates, that night there were no shouts or insults between Mayer Mizrachi, Guillermo Willie Bermúdez, Iván Blasser, Raúl Ricardo Rodríguez and Edison Broce, five of the seven candidates for the municipality with the largest budget in the country.

In the forum for law and political science students at the Santamaría La Antigua University (USMA), there was also no content for memes, catchy phrases such as 4 x 8 or interventions that would lend themselves to notes with headlines similar to ‘Ten moments of the debate.’

The layout of the stage lent itself to a more relaxed and less defensive conversation: five white armchairs, one for each mayoral candidate. In this meeting there were also no empty chairs on stage to show who was missing.

If it were not for the few references to the current mayor of the capital José Luis Fábrega , who is seeking re-election, nominated by the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) , anyone who does not know who the seven candidates for mayor of the capital are would not have noticed his absence. Without naming him directly, Fábrega was criticized for almost doubling the municipality’s payroll since he took office in 2019 and appointing officials by hand.

Nor would the absence of Sergio Chello Gálvez , candidate for mayor for the Realizing Goals (RM) and Alianza parties, have been noticed . No one made any references to him, nor did they mention him by name or surname.

Neither Fábrega nor Gálvez responded to telephone calls from La Prensa asking them to talk about the reasons why they were absent.

The format was more relaxed.

  1. Panamanian public debt is close to $50,000 million. In February 2024, the balance reached $49,808 million.
  2. During the government of Laurentino Cortizo, which spans from July 2019 to February 2024, the debt of the Non-Financial Public Sector (SPNF) has increased by $23,196 million. Debt limits the State’s ability to invest.
  3. Considering the total balance, the per capita debt, which is what each citizen owes, is $11,574 in Laurentino Cortizo’s mandate. Before he came to power it was $6,183.
  4. Almost one of every two dollars that the country owes corresponds to the debt produced by the government of Laurentino Cortizo.
  5. The combination of Cortizo as president, with the Minister of Economy, Héctor Alexander, has practically doubled the country’s obligations. Current spending, subsidies and bureaucracy are questioned.
  6. The increase in debt is the largest recorded during a presidential period, surpassing the three previous governments. It is also important to keep in mind that the balance published by the Ministry of Economy and Finance excludes the debt corresponding to the state companies ETESA, ENA, and Tocumen SA
  7. The growth in debt has been justified by expenses related to the pandemicand its effects on the economy.
  8. In February 2024, three global bonds for a total of $3.1 billion were issued as part of the financing plan for the State’s general budget.
  9. The continued increase in debt could affect the country’s ability to pay and create economic tensions for the next administration, which will need to implement austerity measures and build confidence to attract investment.
  10. Economists and financiers consulted by this newspaper have warned that, over the next few years, collection will have to be relentless, given the need to pay every penny of debt. The Panamanian government has relied heavily on specific measures and accounting maneuvers to reduce fiscal deficits in the last year. In the 2024 budget, the increase in spending is high, at a time when Panama is promising to reduce it to meet its fiscal goals.

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