Wednesday 21st September 2022.

September 21, 2022

The Public Ministry (MP) requested the call to trial, and that it apply the full weight of the criminal law and an exemplary sanction to former President of the Republic Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019), one of the accused in the Odebrecht case, qualified as “the biggest robbery of public funds in history”. During the allegations phase carried out by the MP, the prosecutor Mahmad Daud Hasan said that Varela “received a large amount of money as a result of bribes from box two” of the company, that is, illicit money and that all of this is duly accredited . “It is clear that the pseudonym used in the Odebrecht payment orders referred to a former president of the Republic from the 2014-2019 period,” Hasan said. “In addition to being shameful, it is an act that attacks all Panamanians, against the decent citizens of this country,” said the prosecutor. The prosecutor also asked that Jaime Lasso , identified as an intermediary between Odebrecht and the Panameñista Party, and his daughter Michelle Lasso Barraza be called to trial . In this sense, he stressed that the Panamanian electoral law prohibits the triangulation of donations to political parties and candidates. “They must be done directly and without the intermediation of third parties,” he specified. On this seventh day of the preliminary hearing for the Odebrecht case, the prosecutor maintained that both, father and daughter, through different companies, made payments to benefit Varela, for which he considered that their participation is crucial within the scheme to channel the bribery scheme. Hasan also assured that Odebrecht “wanted to have access to power, it was not content with having the works” and that for this it paid bribes and bribes “right and left”, to presidents of the Republic, vice presidents, ministers of State and even to candidates at election time. It was a package tailored to the highest level of corruption ever seen in Panama and the region, he added. Earlier, the MP detailed the different typologies that were observed in the investigation of the Odebrecht case. The use of fictitious contracts to justify the movement of funds and the use of front companies to open accounts were some of the typologies described by the prosecution in the preliminary hearing of the Odebrecht case. The typology is the description of the methods used by money launderers, that is, all these people who are dedicated to money laundering, “to give the appearance of legality to those assets from criminal activities,” explained the prosecutor. Hasan, at the beginning of the act. Other typologies that were observed within the investigation were the use of figureheads to receive illicit payments, the use of false invoices and the signing of blank documents. “Corruption undermines democracy, gives rise to violence, undermines the quality of life and infinitely affects the poorest.” “Corruption feeds injustice and discourages investment in our countries,” added the prosecutor in his intervention.It should be remembered that on Monday, Judge Baloísa Marquínez granted the prosecution an hour of argument for each of the 49 investigated, while the defense attorneys will have the same period of time to  refute the prosecution’s allegations. Calculating the number of defendants, this phase will take us until next week, warned prosecutor Ruth Morcillo.

The third judge deputy liquidator of criminal cases Fernando Basurto acquitted the former minister Alma Cortés and five other officials for the alleged commission of the crime of embezzlement, to the detriment of the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development (Mitradel), for the alleged appropriation of per diem. Judgment No. 34-2022 highlights that the judge, when analyzing the different evidentiary elements as well as the different testimonies and reports, concluded that there was no damage to the State’s property. This, since the money “was returned to the treasury and it was possible to determine what product of administrative procedures is that the double payment of travel expenses is given, not observing the fraud required by the type of crime investigated,” the sentence states. The judge also pointed out that none of those investigated had within their powers to decide on essential elements such as travel dates, the calculation of the corresponding travel expenses and purchases of air tickets to be able to define dates of departure or entry to the country. The process is related to three meetings of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, in which former Mitradel officials allegedly attended. The investigation in this case began as a result of a complaint filed with the Public Ministry on July 28, 2014. The Public Ministry was represented by the discharge anti-corruption prosecutor Ariel De Gracia, while the private technical defense was exercised by five lawyers and a public defender.

Despite the growth of the state payroll during the administration of Laurentino Nito Cortizo , no official has entered the Administrative Career system, via competition. This was confirmed by the director in charge of the General Directorate of Administrative Careers (Digeca) of the Executive Body, Carlos Cortés, in a note dated September 16, in which he answers questions from David Montenegro, former director of that instance in the period 2014- 2019. Cortés, in the note to which La Prensa had access, recalled that once Cortizo took over the country on July 1, 2019, “temporary measures” were adopted to fill vacant Administrative Career positions. He indicated that at the beginning of this year, through Resolution No. 6 of February 3, 2022, “the holding of competitions to provide human resources for vacant Administrative Career positions” in public sector institutions was postponed, until there is a “ Technical Regulation for the Recruitment and Selection of Human Resources in the Panamanian public sector, duly approved by the Administrative Career Governing Technical Board”. The official also explained that, in addition to working on a regulation, the Digeca is currently ” executing an audit process ” of positions in the entities that belong to the Career regime ” to identify the tasks carried out by public servants in their jobs and determine if they are exercising those that are inherent to their position or different from those of the position, for which they were appointed and/or accredited in the Career ”. He assured that once the audit is completed, the Digeca will begin the incorporation of public servants to the Administrative Career, through the Ordinary Entry Procedure and/or Special Entry Procedure. It should be noted that at the time, the Ministry of the Presidency announced that it postponed the competitions, in July 2019, for administrative career positions, after receiving complaints of alleged irregularities in the appointment of officials in the last months [of the past management ], and amid criticism from supporters of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), who asked not to be named. For its part, Montenegro indicated that Law May 23, 2017 establishes the form of entry into the career, returning the accreditations to those who met the requirements for the position, through merit-based contests and performance evaluation. “The increase in the payroll in the number of officials and salary increases is due to the thousands of illegal dismissals and political appointments with high salaries,” he assured. He added that now they want to reduce that payroll by pressuring or dismissing more than the 38,000 officials who have reached old-age pension (retirement) age and who earn low salaries. “Why don’t they remove those they politically appointed with very high salaries?” he asks. The state payroll is one of the components of government spending that puts the greatest pressure on the public debt. There are 256 thousand 579 civil servants registered until last June, being 226 thousand 344 permanent civil servants and the remaining 30 thousand 235, temporary. In total, there are 10 thousand 930 public servants within the Administrative Career from July 2, 2017 to July 31, 2022. Of which the current government administration has designated 1,882 by “special” process. Of those, 1,877 entered in 2019; 1 in 2020 and 4 so far this year. None by contest as of July 2019.

The manager of Tocumen, SA, Raffoul Arab, must appear before the plenary session of the National Assembly next Wednesday, October 5 at 3:00 p.m. This was announced this Tuesday, September 20, by the president of the legislature, Crispiano Adames. A few weeks ago, the plenary session of the Assembly approved summoning Arab to answer an eight-question questionnaire on the collection of fees and income from the international airport. The motion for his appearance before the legislative chamber was presented by deputies from the various benches, including the independents. Among the questions are: Can you break down the taxes and fees paid by airlines for airport services to Tocumen, SA? What is the landing and takeoff fee currently paid by airlines to the International Airport? What is the fee for use of the embarkation and disembarkation platform that the airlines pay and can you break it down by airline? They will also ask: What is the fee for the use of the long-term parking platform at the airport and which airline currently uses this service? And how much is the amount received in the last 5 years for long-term parking by airlines? Arab was this Tuesday in the Assembly. But he went to support the institution’s budget for the next fiscal year 2023. He said that the budget will be $265 million, $27 million more than in 2022. “Tocumen is a company that generates its own income and for us, after a major crisis due to covid, it is important to resume our activities,” he said. “Our recovery is already underway,” he added.

The general administrator of the Urban and Home Cleaning Authority (AAUD) , Pedro Castillo, requested this Tuesday, that the issue of the recommended budget for this institution be analyzed. This request was made when going to the Budget Commission of the National Assembly, this Tuesday for the support of the 2023 tax hearing. There, Castillo said that an amount of 222 million dollars had been requested, however, the Ministry of Economy and Finance recommended 73.3 million dollars. Castillo indicated that the request for 222 million dollars “does not constitute a whim” and that rather “we need it.” The official acknowledged that the entity under his charge is criticized for the lack of waste collection or frequencies, but insisted that a larger budget will allow them to “improve.” “We are not the Ministry of Health, but we have to do with health,” to prevent public health problems, said the official.

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