Wednesday 19th July 2023.

July 18, 2023


Former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) was sentenced to 10 years and 8 months in prison for laundering the funds used to acquire the shares of Editora Panamá América, SA (Epasa) , in December 2010, a case known as New Business .

Similarly, Martinelli (who never appeared personally at the trial alleging medical disability) was fined the equivalent of $19.2 million as an accessory penalty and ordered the confiscation of all Epasa shares in favor of the State. 40% of the shares had already been voluntarily transferred to the State, before the trial began.

The 306-page sentence of criminal judge Baloisa Marquínez was released this Tuesday, July 18, 46 days after the end of the trial followed by a total of 15 people.

Likewise, four other defendants were sentenced: Daniel Ochy, to 96 months in prison, Janeth Vásquez (60 months), Iván Arrocha (70 months) and Valentín Martínez Vásquez (80 months). Daniel Ochy will not be able to carry out business for the same period once the prison term has expired and the other three will not be able to carry out public functions.

The judge acquitted 10 defendants: Gonzalo Germán Gómez, Nicolás Corcione Pérez Balladares, José Carlos Pérez Balladares, Iván Clare Arias, Aaron Ronny Mizrachi, Vernon Salazar Zurita , Salomón Btesh Btesh, Jack Btesh Hazan, Leo Cohen Mugrabi and Marcos Ángel Acrich. The prosecution had requested the acquittal of two of them: Solomon and Jack Btesh.

In her decision, the judge ordered the dissolution of two companies: Inmobiliaria TPA, SA and TPHC, Inc., used to move the shares of Epasa and conceal their true owners.

Martinelli’s spokesman, Luis Eduardo Camacho, said that the judge’s decision is a “legal outburst.” Subsequently, his team of lawyers held a press conference to insist on the innocence of his client and that the funds used to buy the Epasa shares had a legal origin.

The ruling in the New Business case says nothing about the eventual disqualification of Martinelli (who is the Realizando Metas presidential candidate in the May 5, 2024 elections) from performing public functions.

In this regard, the Constitution establishes two unique requirements to be president or vice president of the Republic: Panamanian by birth and over 35 years of age. But, in its article 180, it adds that ” anyone who has been convicted of an intentional crime with a custodial sentence of 5 years or more, by means of an enforceable sentence handed down by a court of justice” cannot be elected . Martinelli’s sentence is for 128 months (or 10 years and 8 months) in prison.

Judge Marquínez’s ruling, released this Tuesday, is not yet “executed”, since it is currently in the notification stage of the parties. And there are 15 defendants (five found guilty and 10 acquitted), 12 defense lawyers and the Special Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime , representing the Public Ministry.

In addition, as it is a first instance sentence, it can be appealed: before the Superior Court for Settlement of Criminal Cases (presided over by José Hoo Justiani ) and before the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (presided over by María Eugenia López Arias ).

There is a key date in the electoral calendar: Tuesday, October 31, 2023. Until 10:00 a.m. on that day, political parties will be able to make their last paper applications (by electronic means, the closing is at 11:59 p.m. pm on October 29).

If the sentence is executed before that date, the Electoral Tribunal (TE) should not receive Martinelli’s application. But if it is not enforceable, you must accept it.

In this case, if later (that is, after October 31) the sentence becomes final and, therefore, the convicted person is disqualified from exercising public functions, his colleague on the payroll (who is the candidate for vice president ) who remains as the main candidate.

So, in this scenario, it would be applicable to article 362 of the Electoral Code , which reads as follows:

“ If a citizen declared suitable as a candidate loses the character of postulate, his substitute will assume the place of the main candidate. If the one who dies or resigns is the substitute candidate, the principal will appear without a substitute on the ballot ”.

A source linked to the TE indicated that “right now, nothing has happened to prevent the application” of Martinelli; but if all parties are notified, no one appeals and Marquínez’s sentence is executed, there is a constitutional impediment for him to be a candidate. “Therefore, he cannot run for president,” he remarked.

Martinelli’s lawyer, Carlos Carrillo , said at a press conference on Tuesday that Marquínez’s ruling does not affect his client’s candidacy. “No ruling, in this instance, should affect the presidential candidacy of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal,” he said.

In this regard, the former magistrate of the TE, Guillermo Márquez Amado , indicated that Martinelli continues to be a candidate, “as long as the ruling is not final, that is, that he is no longer subject to any appeal.”

The Supreme Court of Justice rejected an amparo of constitutional guarantees presented by the defense of Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, within the process for alleged money laundering through the Blue Apple company.

The ruling, dated June 28, 2023, confirmed a decision of the First Court of Justice that did not admit accounting evidence from the company Corporación Energía del Istmo, which would be used by Martinelli’s defense in the Blue Apple case.

The decision of the plenary session of the Court, under the presentation of the magistrate Juan Francisco Castillo (substitute for María Eugenia López), resolves an appeal presented by the defense of Martinelli Linares, who sought that said evidence be admitted for the trial scheduled for the next 22 of August.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the Corporación de Energía del Istmo, a hydroelectric company that was awarded a contract for the construction of a generating plant in San Bartolo, in Veraguas, presumably linked to the Martinelli Linares brothers, appears at the tax hearing as part of the movement of money generated by the collection of bribes from the contracts that were destined for the Blue Apple basket company.

The Blue Apple trial against 27 people who are accused of the alleged commission of the crime of money laundering, official corruption and embezzlement, was scheduled for April 10, but two lawyers presented excuses, so the second judge liquidator of criminal cases, Baloisa Marquínez, arranged to carry it out on the alternate date.

This investigation, which consists of 352 volumes, began on October 30, 2017 and is related to an alleged corruption network made up of officials, businessmen, and lawyers, who allegedly requested commissions from contractors for the award of bids with the State.

The Administration attorney, Rigoberto González , expressed his opinion in favor of the four Cambio Democrático (CD) deputies who seek to create the romulista bench called “Good things come”.

He considered that after the analysis of the Internal Regulations of the National Assembly , it is enough to present the information on the formation of the new bench for it to be registered, without the need for the approval of any official.

This is how articles 221 and 222 of the regulations establish it, the attorney said.

Article 221 says: “To constitute a parliamentary faction, the participation of at least four Deputies or Deputies is required. No Deputy may be part of more than one parliamentary faction simultaneously.

Meanwhile, 222 establishes: “The registration of a parliamentary faction will be made, within ten days following the installation of the National Assembly in the First Ordinary Legislature, by writing to the Board of Directors of the National Assembly. The aforementioned document must indicate the name of the fraction and the names of all the members, its Coordinator or Coordinator and the Deputies or Deputies who may eventually replace him .

According to González, it will be enough for the members of the parliamentary faction to provide the board of directors of the Assembly with the information referred to in article 222 for “it to be registered”, without requiring the completion of another additional procedure by an official or member of the National Assembly.

On Monday, July 17, the National Assembly, chaired by PRD member Jaime Vargas, rejected the creation of the new Romulista bench made up of deputies Ana Giselle Rosas, Génesis Arjona, Rony Araúz and Edwin Zúñiga, after alleging that the regulations indicate that a deputy cannot be part of another bench.

However, Deputy Rosas reported that during the presentation of the information for the creation of the new bench they announced their resignation from the parliamentary faction of Cambio Democrático, led by Deputy Yanibel Ábrego, a political rival of Rómulo Roux.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that the board of this organization appointed the Panamanian Arsenio Antonio Domínguez Velasco, as the new Secretary General as of January 1, 2024 for a period of 4 years.

The designation must be approved and ratified by the IMO assembly.

Currently, Domínguez Velasco has held the position of Chief of Staff at IMO since 2017, playing a crucial role in various technical and administrative aspects. Among his responsibilities are advisory, policy and strategic planning in support of the management of the current Secretary General, Kitack Lim. In addition, he plays a key role in coordinating the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda on sustainable development.

Domínguez Velasco’s career in the maritime field began in 1998, when he joined the Panama Maritime Authority as head of the Regional Technical and Documentation Office. Over the years, he has held important positions representing Panama before the IMO. Between 2004 and 2014, he served as the country’s alternate representative and technical adviser to the organization. In 2014, his work was recognized when he was appointed ambassador and permanent representative of Panama to the IMO, becoming the first Latin American to be elected president of one of the Organization’s most relevant committees: the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee.


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