Wednesday 11th October 2023.
October 10, 2023
The Brazilian company Odebrecht is looking for alternatives to pay the $220 million fine, applied in 2017, as part of the penalty agreement and collaboration in the investigation into the bribes it distributed to Panamanian politicians and officials.
This Tuesday, in a control hearing with compliance judge James Corro , jurist Oswaldo Fernández , from the Odebrecht legal team, asserted that “we have run out of income,” given that the Brazilian company no longer has new contracts with the State. Therefore, according to Fernández, he has lost liquidity to pay the fine.
He added that a meeting has already been requested with the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), in order to explore other alternatives to cancel the fine, but that so far these conversations have not materialized.
Judge Corro told Fernández that Carlos Muñoz Pope, lawyer for the Ministry of Public Security, who intervenes in this process as a plaintiff, must be notified of this request.
Muñoz Pope was not present at the control hearing this Tuesday.
During the hearing it emerged that, to date, Odebrecht has paid $65 million of the entire fine applied. This amount corresponds to voluntary payments and withholdings requested by the Anti-Corruption Compliance Prosecutor’s Office, to entities with which Odebrecht has current contracts, such as the Tocumen International Airport and the Panama Metro.
Odebrecht agreed to pay the fine of $220 million in annual installments for 12 years. Thus, he had to pay $18.3 million annually.
During the hearing, anti-corruption prosecutor Anilú Batista explained that the company still owes $3 million 384 thousand corresponding to the $18 million it had to disburse in 2022. As for payments for 2023, it has not yet paid a dollar.
Batista explained that Odebrecht has until December 31 to pay the $18 million corresponding to this year and that, if it does not do so, it will be charged 5% interest.
The prosecutor stressed that Odebrecht must comply with the payment of the fine, since it is part of an agreement duly validated by a judge, so compliance is mandatory.
For Odebrecht bribes, 25 people, including former presidents Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, accused of alleged money laundering, will be tried from July 15 to August 23, 2024.
Fernández assured that the company has provided all the necessary collaboration and that in the trial it will provide everything that the prosecution requests as part of the agreement reached.
After agreeing on some 25 modifications with representatives of the unions and the General Directorate of the Administrative Career, the deputies of the Government Commission of the National Assembly approved a special procedure to enter the administrative career, which favors officials appointed under the administration of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) .
This is bill 1075, approved this Tuesday, October 10 in the first debate.
Although civil servant unions have indicated that this is not the time to repeal Law 9 of 1994, on the administrative career, the deputies approved several modifications that supersede the current norm.
Among the modifications presented is that the three magistrates of the Administrative Tribunal of the Public Service be chosen in a staggered manner by the three organs of the State and not only by President Laurentino Cortizo, as originally proposed by the initiative.
Currently, one of the magistrates is chosen by the Executive, another is appointed by the workers and a third is appointed by the National Assembly, for a period of five years each, but with the modification, the mandate is extended to seven. years.
The rule maintained that officials will only require two years or more in office to be able to enter the administrative career before April 1, 2024.
The Government estimates that this benefits 48 thousand officials from various entities.
Project 1075 now goes to the legislative plenary session, for the second and third debate.
The Commission on Credentials, Regulations, Parliamentary Ethics and Judicial Affairs of the National Assembly met this Tuesday, October 10, to analyze three complaints against judges of the Supreme Court of Justice and two against the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo . However, they were all archived.
The following deputies participated in the commission: Raúl Pineda, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), who serves as president; Hugo Méndez, from the Panameñista Party; Gabriel Silva, from the independent bench; Francisco Pancho Alemán, from Molirena; Roberto Ábrego, from the PRD; Ricardo Torres, from the PRD; and Mayín Correa, from Cambio Democrático. Mercedes Gálvez, substitute for Sergio Chello Gálvez, from CD, left the commission as soon as the number of deputies necessary to start the meeting was completed.
They reviewed “folders” 288, 291, 294, 295 and 296 with criminal complaints. 288 referred to the one presented by Luis Eduardo Camacho and Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, against Judge María Eugenia López, president of the Court .
Silva said that although the complaint met the basic requirements to be admitted, he asked that it not be accepted since in his opinion, there is no crime in it. While the PRD member Ábrego agreed with the independent deputy that it did not have to be admitted. They were joined by Méndez, from the Panameñista Party. Pineda, from the PRD, did it later.
Then they reviewed file 294 on a legal action filed in 2021 by Donaldo Sousa Guevara and others, against the President of the Republic, Laurentina Cortizo. They accused him of alleged excess of functions, environmental crimes, historical heritage and others, for allowing acts of mining activities allegedly violating the country’s laws with respect to Minera Panamá.
The complaint does not present evidence against the president; it could be crimes against the company or those who signed the contract. The events described are not a cause that can be pinned on the president, explained Silva, who requested that it be filed. The commission will meet on October 17 at 8:00 am to analyze other cases.
The document for the joint purchase of 351 medicines between the Ministry of Health (Minsa) and the Social Security Fund (CSS), is now ready to be published on the Panamacompra online quoting platform.
This was reported by the Vice President of the Republic, José Gabriel Carrizo , who added that this joint purchase is the first in the history of the country that will guarantee having the supply of medicines in the CSS and the Minsa.
Carrizo, who leads the Medicines Technical Board , said that the way the medicines are being acquired guarantees the State that, if there is any type of non-compliance, the Government can immediately go with the one that was number two and then make an international purchase. immediately, without waiting to go through the usual procedure at a single price, which was what made the price of the medicine more expensive.
Elvia Lau, national director of Pharmacy and Drugs at the Minsa , explained that this integration will help reduce costs and speed up response times; will increase productivity, improve drug traceability and attract new investors.
The former president of the Republic, Martín Torrijos , was in a meeting with his work team when they came to notify him, this Monday, October 9, of the expulsion process that the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) began against him, for having accepted the presidential candidacy of the Popular Party (PP).
Torrijos, who did not resist, received the envoy from the prosecutor’s office of the Court of Honor and Discipline, who explained to him that the process is related to the complaint that Víctor De Gracia filed against him last September . The envoy explained that since said complaint complies with all the formal requirements, it was admitted, so now the investigation period opens and Torrijos will have the opportunity to make his formal defenses.
The Government of Laurentino Cortizo will end with two fiscal and financial strategies with which debt payments are basically postponed and taxes are collected in advance.
At the end of last year, they chose to defer the payment of $364 million in debt interest corresponding to the year 2022, to pay it between 2024 and 2026, when they are no longer in power and have the responsibility of administering the country.
Now, eight months before the country’s general elections and at the end of his administration, a law has been approved that will allow the Government to collect taxes in advance corresponding to the 2024 and 2025 fiscal periods.
Law 401 of October 5, 2023, published yesterday, October 9, in the Official Gazette , established that a 25% discount will be granted to all taxpayers who, when this law comes into effect and before November 30, 2023 pay 100% of the property tax corresponding to the 2024 fiscal period.
The same discount will be granted to taxpayers who pay 100% corresponding to the Single Rate corresponding to the 2025 fiscal period.
The taxpayer who aspires to enjoy the tax benefit must have paid the total tax corresponding to the current year. And if you comply with this requirement, from the entry into force of this law and until November 30, the forgiveness of 50% of all remaining fines charged or not, in the system is authorized for taxpayers who pay 50%.
According to deputies of the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), the measure aims to encourage taxpayers to pay their real estate taxes in advance, creating the condition of a discount.