Tuesday 27th September 2022.
September 27, 2022
The defense of former president Juan Carlos Varela denied that his client has any relationship with the bribes distributed by Odebrecht and that he does not know who corresponds to the pseudonym Cachaza with which the former president is allegedly identified in the Drousys system, used by the construction company to pay the bribes. In the preliminary hearing before Judge Baloísa Marquínez , the lawyer Orison Cogley read a document in which the construction company claims to be unaware that there will be pseudonyms to refer to the beneficiaries of the bribes. Cogley, also a former Public Ministry prosecutor, assured that the fact that a company transfers money does not mean that a crime is being committed. Varela alleges that the money he received from Odebrecht were “donations” for the electoral campaigns of the Panameñista Party in 2009 (in which he was in alliance with Ricardo Martinelli and won as Vice President of the Republic) and in 2014, with which he arrived at the Palace of the Herons. The lawyer also stated that Varela has been the one “who has delivered the most documents to the Public Ministry.” “There was no introduction of dirty money, there was no stratification or return,” he added. Against Varela would weigh the statement of the doctor Jaime Lasso . Before the Lasso prosecutor’s office, he accepted having received the payments. According to the investigations, the money from Odebrecht reached the Panameñista through the Don James Foundation and through two companies: V-Tech and Poseidon Enterprises, all linked to Lasso.
A Panamanian delegation, headed by the Attorney General of the Nation (in charge), Javier Caraballo , met with authorities from the Federal Department of Justice and Police of the Swiss Confederation, as part of the start of negotiations for the signing of a Bilateral Treaty of Mutual Legal Assistance (TALM) in criminal matters. This treaty would contemplate, in addition to the assistance for the exchange of evidence, the procedures for the repatriation of seized funds, which would allow Panama to recover money that is currently in Switzerland and that is linked to judicial processes that are being carried out in Panama. . Caraballo held a meeting with the deputy attorney general of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office of the Swiss Confederation, Jacques Rayroud , where they discussed issues related to the money seized in Switzerland -at the request of Panama-, linked to high-profile cases investigated by the Public Ministry in Panama. During the meeting, Caraballo reiterated the request that the money continue to be seized so that “once the processes are completed and the Panamanian courts order the confiscations, the repatriation of said funds is achieved.”
The Ministry of Health (Minsa) surprisingly postponed until October 19 the tender it called to acquire 10 water purification vehicles for $4.6 million, after an investigation by La Prensa revealed alleged irregularities in the public event. The decision was made by the Minsa authorities in the early hours of this Monday and was announced through the PanamaCompra electronic portal at 8:30 a.m. Some of the businessmen interested in participating expressed their surprise since they found out an hour and a half before the deadline to submit their proposals to the health ministry electronically. They pointed out that they found out through Panama Compra, since the public contracting law indicates that notifications must be made through that channel. However, they agreed that public acts should allow the best amount for the State and not for the employer. One of the merchants consulted pointed out that the estimated price of these vehicles to transform raw water into drinking water seems “ridiculous and exaggerated”. “It cannot be possible that the manufacturers have a price and here in Panama they want to take advantage of the need of the people to make the millionaire business,” he said. An investigation by La Prensa revealed that the Minsa would be willing to pay $460,000 per vehicle, despite the fact that between $53,000 and $140,000 is the amount for which they are purchased on the market, depending on the specifications. A review by La Prensa to the modifications of the specifications reveals that the Minsa would pay almost $500 thousand per used vehicle or, at least, with previous use, contrary to what was requested at the beginning, when they asked for “0 kilometers” vehicles. Now, the document indicates that “it must have up to 500 kilometers on the road” . The director of the Potable Water and Sewerage Subsector of the Minsa, Nicolás Alvarado, refused to respond. How was the reference price of $4.6 million obtained? And what institution or company carried out the market study? Among the 10 companies interested in participating in the public event is Galmobile, but the Minsa did not confirm to La Prensa whether it is Galmobile América, SA or Galmobile, SA, the only companies with similar names in the Public Registry. On January 3, 2020, the company Galmobile América, SA was incorporated, whose dignitaries are Salomón Elías Btesh (president); Solomon Jack Btesh (vice president and secretary) and Mike Btesh (treasurer). The latter appears on a list published by the Public Ministry in 2021, accused of allegedly committing the crime of money laundering in the New Business case, which tracks the purchase of Editora Panamá América SA with alleged public funds. Galmobile SA, whose directors are Aldo Lancini (president and treasurer) and Joann Orozco (secretary), was registered a year later. Lancini and Orozco also appear with the same positions in the company Grupo Betco Zona Libre, whose subscribers are members of the Btesh and Cohen Mugrabi families.
The Ministry of Public Security reported that, in conjunction with the Government of the province of Veraguas, a day of voluntary weapons exchange will be held this week; In exchange, bonds exchangeable in supermarkets or shops will be delivered. The process, of a confidential nature, will take place this Friday, September 30 at the Social Center of the San José de Montijo Parish, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm The “Pacifying my neighborhood, building the future” program was carried out this year in the provinces of Panama and Colón. According to figures from the Ministry of Public Security, in the province of Panama more than 450 firearms were removed from the streets in less than three months. In addition, more than 126 thousand dollars have been delivered in vouchers redeemable through the Government of Panama.
Tocumen International Airport announced that it is working to remove “as soon as possible” the aircraft that made an emergency landing on the night of Sunday, September 25, fortunately without injuries or fatalities. It is a Boeing 737-800NG model aircraft, operated by Copa Airlines, from the Benito Juárez airport in Mexico City , which left runway 3 right of Tocumen during landing, with 156 passengers and 7 crew members. Operations on runway 3 left remain active, the airport reported in a statement released Monday morning. “In collaboration with the Copa airline, coordination is being made to remove as soon as possible the aircraft that left runway 03 right last night,” the statement added. In the released images it can be seen that the aircraft was practically without its landing gear. The incident is being investigated by the Civil Aeronautics Authority (AAC).
The Panama Black Weekend held from September 14 to 18 closed with sales of $84 million, a figure that exceeds the 2021 statistics by 20%. This was announced by its organizers at a press conference headed by Iván Eskildsen, general manager of the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP). Eskildsen indicated that during this week of offers, the entry of 2,490 visitors was reported, coming from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. It is estimated that at least 2,500 businesses participated nationwide, according to figures from the Panamanian Association of Shopping Centers. This initiative came from the Tourism Demand and Reactivation Commission, which is made up of more than 10 tourism unions and is led by the ATP. This 2022 edition was the first in two years to be held without restrictions due to the covid-19 pandemic.
The Panama Canal, one of the main assets of Panamanians, has maintained a constant growth in its income and contributions to the State, with greater growth as of June 2016 when the third set of locks came into operation. The entity enjoys good financial health and in addition to annually paying benefits to the country, it has also been able to maintain reserves and meet the payment of the two financing commitments acquired: one for the expansion program, and another for the construction of the third bridge over the Panama canal. In total, the ACP has a balance of $1,345 million in debt, of which $895 million are from the loan it signed in 2008 to finance part of the expansion program, and another $450 million from the construction of the third bridge over the Panama Canal, in Colon. This balance of the expansion debt is calculated with the amortization of the fiscal year of the ACP 2022 that ends on September 30.