Wednesday 8th March 2023.

March 8, 2023



Odebrecht  did not pay the fine corresponding to the year 2022, which was imposed as part of the penalty agreement of the company, confessed to using the Panamanian financial system to launder bribes, to the detriment of the Panamanian State.

During a hearing held on the morning of Tuesday, March 7, compliance judge James Corró agreed to the request of anti-corruption prosecutor Anilú Batista and declared the breach of the agreement by the company and ordered to withhold the payments that the firm must still receive for the contracts it has in force with the Ministry of Housing and the Panama Metro.

In addition, the judge ruled that Odebrecht must pay a surcharge of 5% on the entire payment that was due to be made in December 2022 to which it did not comply.

As the fine agreed in 2017 is $220 million, payable over 12 years, an annual payment of $18.3 million is applicable. But now, with the 5% surcharge, they must pay the sum of $ 19.2 million. However, the company has a “remainder” of more than $ 3.3 million “pending payment of the year 2022,” the Judicial Branch warned in a statement.

Osvaldo Fernández, Odebrecht’s lawyer, said that the company is interested in complying with the payment of the fine, but that it currently does not have funds to fulfill that responsibility, since it has not received new contracts to carry out works and the State maintains debts that it has not honored.

Judge Corro convened a new hearing in four months, on July 10, at 9:00 a.m., “to assess circumstances and seek options in the face of a scenario of possible non-compliance,” according to a press release from the Judicial Branch.

It is not uncommon for Odebrecht to breach the agreement of 2017 with the Public Ministry. In fact, about 10 hearings have already been held before compliance judges, precisely to get the construction company to pay. The amounts owed in previous years have also been charged the 5% late payment surcharge.

The Science Foundation in Panama warned that the Supreme Court ruling, which considers that phrases of the Family Code that restrict the right to marriage to people of the same sex are not unconstitutional, ignores scientific evidence.

In a statement, Science in Panama states that the right to same-sex marriage is a human rights issue in its broadest sense, including public health.

The foundation argues that studies recognize that legally married couples, regardless of social status or sexual orientation, have better mental and physical health than unmarried people.

“Scientific evidence from countries where marriage equality is legal indicates that legalizing access to marriage for all people would have a positive impact on their physical and mental health in the same way it does for just heterosexual people,” the statement said.

Science in Panama warns the authorities about the consequences of this type of decisions, with stigmatizing and discriminating content, can generate at the social, economic level and in the physical and mental health of the homoparental families that exist in the country.

“At the same time, we put ourselves at the disposal of the petitioners against whom the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama has ruled against to support them by supporting any decision they make to go before international bodies, providing the necessary scientific evidence,” the statement said.

Legal representatives of about 20 families of the Urban PH, in Obarrio, presented on Tuesday, a report prepared by the Technological University of Panama (UTP), which rules out that the explosion that occurred in the building, on November 1, 2022, was due to a gas leak in a stove.

At a press conference held on Tuesday, March 7, lawyers for the affected residents said that a technical report from UTP specialists reflects that the stove in apartment 12C-2 was not the point of origin of the explosion.

Linda Garrido, from the team representing a group of residents, read part of the UTP report in which it is stated that the stove of apartment 12C-2 shows perforations by impact from the outside in and that there is no trace of combustion, soot or presence of burned material in the area of the detected leak.

“In the possible hypothesis that the stove had been the cause of the leak, for the magnitude of the explosion, there would have been no remains of the stove due to its destruction,” Garrido read from the UTP report.

This report contradicts the one presented by the Panama Fire Department on February 13, in which the explosion was attributed to a leak from the 12C-2 stove.

According to residents, the incident occurred due to a perforation of the main gas pipeline, on the laundry side of an apartment on the 14th floor. What happened in 12C-2 did not affect the explosion, according to the lawyers of the residents, who had already presented to the Public Ministry a private expert with these conclusions.

In that sense, Garrido, when reading the UTP report, said that the cause of the gas leak that caused the explosion in apartment 12C-2, was due to two perforations made in the gas pipe on the 14th floor.

In addition, another situation raised by residents’ lawyers has to do with the alarm system to detect gas leaks in apartments. In the UTP document, it is stated that part of these detectors were disabled days before the explosion on several floors.

“Despite the fact that the system installed in the Urban PH has the ability to record and detect gas leaks through the detectors distributed throughout the building’s apartments, in the case of floors 8 to 17, this capability was disabled [manually disconnected] as of October 28, 2022 at 10:15 a.m.,” read Ramsés Álvarez, from the team of lawyers.

The lawyers stressed that it will be up to the Public Ministry to determine the responsibilities in this regard.

The powerful explosion occurred at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 1, shattering windows, destroying furniture and throwing debris. The balance was at least 20 people injured and 600 people evacuated, both from the Urban PH and from nearby buildings.

The Public Ministry reported Tuesday that it began an investigation into the death of a person in the middle of a fight that occurred early Monday in the Bella Vista sector.

It is specified that the proceedings for the alleged commission of the crime of homicide are carried out by the Homicide and Femicide Section of the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office.

So far the authorities have not given further details about the possible causes of the fight between a group of young people.

Preliminary reports indicate that the incident occurred in the vicinity of a nightclub and a hotel in the Obarrio sector and ended near the Metro station on Via Argentina. Videos of the fight between the young people were posted on social networks.

This Tuesday the Section of Homicide and Femicide of the Metropolitan area carried out the diligence of ocular inspection in a hotel of the locality and the interviews, as part of the investigation of this case.

The Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, Panamanian Chapter of Transparency International, launched on Tuesday the Sancus project, for the “evaluation of the oversight role of the National Assembly”, which is financed by the European Union.

It seeks to oversee the National Assembly and is a tool that is already used in other countries in the region.

Olga de Obaldía, executive director of the Citizen Freedom Foundation, said that it is time to move forward on this issue and more so in an institution such as the Legislative Branch.

The event was also attended by independent deputy Gabriel Silva, who was part of the main panel along with Salvador Sánchez, director of the Institute of Democratic Studies of the Electoral Tribunal and Lina Vega, president of the Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom. The panel was moderated by journalist Dalia Pichel.

The first two months of 2023 have been characterized by growing insecurity on the streets across the country. Robberies, thefts, fraud and car theft have become routine.

According to figures from the security forces, in the months of January and February there have been 797 complaints of theft crimes and a total of 835 cases of fraud.

The actions of gangs dedicated to the theft of vehicles and car accessories have also been detected.

In that regard, according to police data, in the first days of March 134 vehicles that had a theft report have been recovered.

In December 2022, the Primary Care Prosecutor’s Office dismantled a criminal network dedicated to the theft of cars that were rented from rental companies, then sold in the interior of the country. Before selling them, they place a GPS to locate and steal them again.

In 2022, the Judicial Investigation Directorate (DIJ) managed to recover 920 stolen cars, some of which were located in Costa Rica.

Authorities have also detected an increase in complaints of theft of car accessories, including vehicle computers, which are mostly from Korean brands.

Most of the thefts were reported in the neighborhoods of Betania, Pueblo Nuevo, Parque Lefevre, Brisas del Golf, San Antonio and Arraiján.


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