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The Justice System of Panama Is Flawed and/or Sick, Leading Some to Conclude that Panama Is A Failing State


There is a closely related topic on the subject of a sting operation in the City Hall of Panama City. See http://www.chiriqui.life/topic/13424-sting-operation-uncovers-panamas-city-hall-corruption-network. This topic is about the justice system, specifically including the Supreme Court. The referenced topic is about a lower level of corruption within the rank and file of public service.

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Political parties, justice get failing grades

Party flags

ONLY 10% of Panamanians, put any trust in the country’s five political parties, while  19% trusted the executive and 22%  the judiciary. report Latinobarómetro report 2017, made public on October 26.

The study across Latin America involved interviews of 20,000 people in 18 countries including   1,000 in the isthmus.

The level of trust in political parties was similar to the response across  the board. But in neighboring Costa Rica, 45% said they trusted the Judiciary, which made it the region with the highest belief in the institutions of justice.

The study also says that 37% of Panamanians interviewed say that the country has progressed “somewhat ” in reducing corruption in state institutions. But also expressed the belief that the police, judges and officials can be bribed.

In Panama there are currently five political parties: the Democratic Revolutionary Party  (PRD), the Panameñista Party, Democratic Change (CD), the Republican-Liberal Nationalist Movement (Molirena), and the Popular Party(PP) There are also two other groupings that are about to receive the endorsement of the Electoral Tribunal (TE) to become political collectives

Until last June, 1.3 million Panamanians were registered in parties, according to the TE.



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OPINION: Panama’s perverted justice system

Where judges sit on files
Post Views: 260
Those [Panamanians]investigated for high-profile corruption offenses have revealed a sinister truth: there is a differentiated treatment by the judicial system that favors them.

Dozens of suspects have escaped the action of the Public Ministry, simply taking a plane, many times private, hiding from the investigations, until their skilled lawyers manage to ensnare the process thanks to complacent judges.

The rules are extremely flexible and what is worse, the interpretation given to them by judges and magistrates to benefit plunderers of hundreds of millions of dollars from all Panamanians. These actions are not considered in any country of the world as a legitimate exercise of due process or the right of defense.
In the fourth year of legal proceedings against those allegedly responsible for high-profile acts of corruption, hearings are suspended, judges paralyze the investigations and the magistrates of the Supreme Court sit on the files. It is clear that the Judicial Organ and the legal profession have a lot to answer to society for impunity in the country. …LA PRENSA, hoyporhoy, Apl.9



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Panama’s “stagnation of justice”

Guillermo Márquez Amado, former magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal and spokesman for the observatory; and Inocencio Galindo, president of the Chamber of Commerce
Post Views: 120
The second report on Panama’s judicial system underscores widespread public concerns and  finds that investigations are at stake “Due to the current stagnation of justice,”the Observatory of the Judicial System of Panama report was delivered on Wednesday,  April 25 by the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (Ciac), the Justice and Peace Commission and the Santa María University.

“This situation is unacceptable, we live in times that demand transparency, justice, and surrender of accounts, not only from the Judicial Branch but also by the other State Bodies, “said Inocencio Galindo, president of the Chamber.

According to the report, poor investigations due to lack of personnel or non-existence from the beginning of a coordinated and effective case theory is one of the causes that negatively affects the end of the prescription of crimes.

Another factor that affects the prescription of processes is the lack of an audit by the Comptroller’s Office or in some cases presented long after the investigation began and precautionary measures had been applied to people.

There is also a lack of determination by the Office of the Prosecutor in requesting a date for the preliminary hearing of the case before the Court

The other factor, according to the report, is the lack of special courts that allow exhausting  the processes of the current inquisitorial system, so that more audiences can be held in less time and thus avoid prescription.



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Reform plan for Panama justice system

Post Views: 163
Panama’s Chamber of Commerce  Industry and Agriculture (Cciap) has introduced a proposal for reforms to the constitution largely aimed at resolving one of the country’s most contentious issues a proposal for reforms to the constitution largely aimed at resolving one of the country’s most contentious issues – the administration of justice.

The proposal, presented by the Chamber’s president Gabriel Barletta, would extend the time in office of the magistrates of the Supreme Court (CSJ) from 10 to 20 years.

In addition, it proposes modifying the requirements to be a magistrate be modified, increasing the minimum age from 35 to 45 years, and requiring  10 to 15 years of experience in the exercise of law.

The initiative retains the power of the Cabinet Council to appoint magistrates, but the designation would be made from a list provided by a  nine-member commission of Evaluation and Nomination, representing Associations and Guilds from the private sector, academic, and civic, NGOs, bar associations, workers and the Executive.

The ratification of the judges would require the approval of two-thirds of the National Assembly instead of the absolute majority currently required.

If the qualified majority in the Legislature is not achieved, the plenary session of the CSJ could appoint the new magistrate to a temporary position as well as the substitute judge.

The Executive should send a new candidate for ratification within 60 days. This candidate would come from the list provided by the Evaluation Commission.

Regarding the judicial function of the Legislative, it is proposed that the Assembly would hear complaints

against the president and the magistrates of the CSJ, and judge them. But the investigation would be carried out by the Public Ministry (MP).

The CSJ, it would hear complaints against the deputies and judge them, but the investigation would be done by the CSJ.

The attorneys of the Nation and the Administration would continue to serve for 10 years, but those appointed by the Executive would be from the list of the Evaluation Commission.

The proposal says that the Judicial Branch would elaborate its own budget and this could not be modified by the Executive.

Barletta said that the proposal is the product of work developed by constitutionalists that met for more than a year and concluded that the “center of democracy is justice.”

Juan Planells Fernández,  rector of the Santa María la Antigua University and member of the Observatory of the Judicial System, said that the proposed changes are necessary and trusts that the deputies will put their pettiness aside and approve the reforms.

The objective of the Cciap is that the reforms are approved, in three debates by this Assembly and are ratified by the deputies elected in 2019.



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Lawyer Brandao: Panamanian justice system is a shameful disaster

Thu, 10/11/2018 - 17:22

Panamanian lawyer José Nelson Brandao expressed his concern about the general state of the justice system in the Isthmus. In an exclusive interview with Panama Today he questioned the role of those who are called to be "just and fair" in the country. "The different press conferences of the Attorney General, where she reports the scandals of the Judicial Branch, the repression of the Prosecutors regarding the decision of the judges, the public conflict regarding who is telling the truth or not, ignoring the concepts of justice, are leading us to the irremediable conclusion that the justice system in Panama is a disaster and shameful".

In reference to the investigations published by the newspaper La Estrella, Brandao said that "all public officials involved must be accountable for their actions. It is not possible that the criminal proceeding is in the hands of individuals of a Security Council that are politically biased and that determine the legal details of the proceedings. If that reality that has been claimed as true and I do not question it, then the judicial system fell into a crisis for which the responsible public officials have to be accountable".

He fears that the political spiral within the justice system will continue. "Today they are the persecutors and tomorrow they will be the persecuted. This is the worst scenario that Panama can have, which needs credibility in justice," says Brandao

The lawyer said that "the bias in the investigations, the way they persecute each other and leave them unnoticed creates a bad impression as to what is really handled in the intrigues of the Security Council, the administration of justice, the preferential interests of investigators".

Regarding the appointment of the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, Brandao said that, "we do not know if the appointment is for hearing a trial against Martinelli or if it is because the President has not had time or in the end we have not been given a reasonable explanation with which the contempt to the Panamanian public opinion is demonstrated".

He says that the justice and institutional crisis in the country also affects the common citizen, "this affects us directly, this defines our misery, this defines that there are no medicines in the Social Security Fund, in hospitals, and there is no job; this is the economic disaster of this country, the lack of credibility in Panamanian investment".

Brandao said that the new President of the Republic is called to guarantee a transformation of the system to help justice, peace and probity prevail.



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OPINION: Panama’s legal insecurity


Abel Zamorano

Posted 15/02/2019
Faced with similar facts, with equal rights invoked, the opinion of the courts must be the same. In Panama, it is not. The erratic behavior of the Third Chamber of Contentious Administrative Matters of the Supreme Court of Justice demonstrates the legal insecurity that the country suffers. On July 3, 2017, Judge Abel Zamorano rejected the admission of a lawsuit claiming that the National Bank pay a multi-million dollar compensation, for a trust constituted with a chain of warehouses: "... The act indicated as a generating event is dealt with of an act of civil-commercial nature, whose review is not the competence of this jurisdiction ... ". What is the difference between this case and the current demand against the bank for the trust of a shopping center? The same magistrate decides in a totally opposite manner. This is the reality that all citizens face, whose lives, liberties, patrimonies, and rights are in the hands of Panamanian justice. These unexpected changes of jurisprudence leave a bad taste in the mouth and raise a terrible halo of suspicion. The Court is still in time to avoid another shame, restoring calm to our economy - LAPRENSA, Feb. 15


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OPINION: Panama condemned to impunity


The Supreme Court

Posted 11/06/2019

A year ago, the Government of the United States gave extradition to Panama, to the ex-citizen of the Republic, Ricardo Martinelli. With the accusatory criminal system, it was supposed that the Panamanian justice could effectively ventilate the case  of the wiretaps. A year of delays, delaying tactics and the forced change of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction to an ordinary court have demonstrated the ability of the accused and his expensive army of lawyers to influence. The expense has not only been  to the former president, but also the State, which has invested public funds and thousands of hours of prosecutors, magistrates and other officials to carry out this trial. This is an example of why the Panamanian justice system is a source of frustration and bitter dissatisfaction, that make them pay all citizens a high price. Whatever the final outcome of the wiretappunctures case, it is urgent to focus on rebuilding justice. It is intolerable that Panama is condemned to impunity and legal uncertainty, the result of courts and judges trapped in a tangle of great interests.-LA PRENSA.June 11



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OPINION: Culture of Corruption

Posted 28/06/2019

The revelations of the Odebrecht scandal, shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, shed light on the dark fabric of the Brazilian company. For Panamanians, this means that more bribes were paid in our country and emblematic works, such as the Panama Metro, served to bribe local authorities and those of other countries. Who are Aguia, Friend of Onca, Salary, Cachaça, Canario, Periquito or Yemanja, Cavaleiro or Stalin? Among these nicknames is the spearhead of the culture of corruption of the Panamanian political class. It is obvious that the Judicial Branch must grant the Public Prosecutor the extension of the investigation or, otherwise, we will lose the opportunity to see justice done. If it is verified that an executive of the company lied or hid information from prosecutors, the whole weight of the law must fall, without contemplations. The new government must take up the fight against corruption as a state policy, and it has to commit to the legal changes that put the country in step with the challenge of the Odebrecht case. Failing to do so is equivalent to maintaining the mechanisms that made this robbery possible.- LA PRENSA, June28



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Corruption decisions by non-specialized judges


Ronaldo Rodriguez

Posted 15/07/2019

Corruption decisions by non-specialized judges

Recent decisions of judges in high profile cases where businessmen and former government insiders with close links to the Ricardo Martinelli administration walk free are raising concerns in the Public Prosecutor's Office and civil society.

The attorney general's secretary, Rolando Rodríguez, has called on all judges in the country to "become aware of the complexity of anti-corruption investigations.” Reports TVN

Anticorruption prosecutor Lizzie Bonilla made an investigation of the concession granted for the parking lots of the Tocumen International Airport, linked to Gabriel Btesh, who has fled the country.

The Second Court of Justice recently revoked the preliminary injunction against Btesh and declared the nullity of part of the proceedings against him.

Bonilla said that in the investigation it was determined that the concession was delivered to the company one month after it was created. "It did not have quality or experience."

He even argued that the company required to deliver an operational and market report that addressed feasibility and did not do so.

With the investigations, a patrimonial injury of $1,883.000 that the State stopped receiving was determined. According to the prosecutor, when the parking lots were administered by the airport, even more, money was received.

The judge argued that Btesh had his rights violated because he was not notified of procedures, however, the prosecutor indicated that he always had a lawyer in Panama, despite not being in the country.

Rodriguez said that, " as it can be established that the right to defense has been violated to a person with a lawyer, but absent in Panama and from the process. There is an inconsistency. "

In other cases such as Rogues de Tonosí and the dismissal of 18 involved in the case of the extinct National Assistance Program (PAN), the reality has not been different.

Rodriguez said that several months ago, the Attorney General, Kenia Porcell warned that she had received notice that several cases of anti-corruption "were going to fail, despite the efforts and elements of conviction," provided by the prosecution.

" They are complex investigations, they are not easy to develop. They involve amounts of operations, people and requires time, "he said.

Rodriguz said that they have prosecutors specialized in money laundering, financial crimes and the citizenship knows them. "There are no specialized judges



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The railroading of an Attorney General


Ana Matilde Gómez, arrives at the Supreme Court of Justice in August 2010.

Posted 23/07/2019

On August 12, 2010, the  Supreme Court of Justice issued one of its most controversial decisions: the dismissal and conviction for the crime of abuse of authority of then-Attorney General, Ana Matilde Gómez   

Now, the Panamanian State faces the consequences of the rigged judicial process against the ex-AG, since the  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights admitted, after years of study, the request of Gomez and human rights organizations, which has caused a thorough examination of the case and the institutionality of Panamanian justice writes Rodrigo Noriega in La Prensa

Gomez's conviction came from a criminal complaint that had been filed by a former prosecutor investigated for alleged corruption. At the juncture of a change of government, the permanence of the attorney Gómez was attacked by lawyers and politicians, and taking advantage of the appointment of two new magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice executed their plan fully.

The lessons that can be learned from that moment should serve to place the rule of law in its right dimension in the face of the challenges of a globalized economy, the need to attract quality foreign investments.

The Panamanian State will have to face the consequences of the judicial ruling.

Almost nine years after being tried and sentenced to  six months in prison and four years of disqualification for the exercise of public functions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), admitted the petition filed by the former Attorney General, the Center for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law American University – Washington College of Law, the Panamanian Association of Constitutional Law and the Association Center for Panamanian Studies and Social Action.

According to the report of the IACHR, dated October 16, 2018, , the claim filed by the petitioners mentioned above on February 16, 2011, in the judicial process that resulted in the separation and conviction of the ex-prosecutor , the rights to personal integrity, judicial guarantees, the principles of legality and retroactivity and judicial protection of the American Convention on Human Rights were violated.

The facts relevant to the petition are based on the complaint filed on July 15, 2009, by former prosecutor Arquimedes Sáez, who requested that the then Attorney General of the Nation be investigated for the crime of abuse of authority by authorizing illegal telephone interceptions against him. , and that this is why on September 29 of that year the substitute administration opened the investigations against the then AG Gómez. As a defendant, filed multiple incidents regarding the investigation that were never resolved by the Supreme Court

On January 28, 2010, by 5 votes in favor and 4 against, the Court adopted the precautionary measure of separating the attorney general.

Gomez was sentenced on August 12, 2010 to the definitive loss of the position of the attorney general, to 6 months in prison, commutable by $4.000dollars of fine, and to 4 years of disqualification of functions as a public servant. All the appeals filed by her during the process were denied or ignored by the Court.

The petition was notified to the Panamanian State on August 16, 2016, obtaining a first response from the State on November 16, 2016, with additional observations from both the petitioner and the State in 2017.

The response of the Panamanian Government has been persistent in that the petitioner had the right to appeal for review of the judgment of August 12, 2010, so she had not exhausted all the resources provided by the country's domestic jurisdiction.

The IACHR has said that the appeal for review “... is not, set up in an appropriate remedy that ensures the revision or double conformity of a conviction before being final. Consequently, the State did not make available to the alleged victim a remedy that allows to protect the rights that are allegedly violated ... ”.

In this phase the victim and the State have time to find a negotiated solution. After that term, the IACHR will take the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to obtain a mandatory sentence against the Panamanian State.

These sentences can include the payment of lost wages, moral damages, interests, and legal costs, which together with a public apology could be the conclusion of a case that should never have happened and that should serve as a warning.

The politicians and lawyers who made the plot that would lead to the separation of Gomez from office, and the conviction, it seems will avoid all responsibility, since who is obliged to pay and compensate the damages caused is the Panamanian State.

However, a conviction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights would not be the only sanction. Panama is on the gray list of the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which considered that the country lacked effectiveness in the fight against money laundering and related crimes. Shaking legal institutions, just when they are in the process of concluding many high-profile investigations, could have serious consequences for the banking and financial sector. The message for international investors would be disastrous, as it would confirm the perception that Panama does not offer legal certainty.

According to the Constitution, the term of service of an attorney general is 10 years. However, the experience of the last 29 years exposes a high instability of the office . With eight attorneys general in 29 years of continuous democracy, it becomes clear that in terms of the rule of law we have a long way to go.

With the changes of government, the new administration tries to obtain officials that are related to it, and, to corner those who exercise the position so that they leave it.

Justice is, then, a part of the political spoils.



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OPINION:  Panama’s perverted justice


Ana Matilde Gomez

Posted 23/07/2019

The Panamanian State is again taken to the bench of the accused in the Inter-American Human Rights System. This time - and with plenty of reasons for this - the process is promoted by former Attorney General  Ana Matilde Gómez, convicted by the Supreme Court of Justice on August 12, 2012, following a complaint filed by a former prosecutor investigated for alleged corruption. The Supreme Court closed its eyes in the face of an openly political process, in which the government in office did not claim anything other than to kidnap the office to do whatever it pleased, without any consequence, with the exception of impunity. The Gomez was a yellow trial, established by what was outlined as a tyrant, and whose consequences all Panamanians today we will have to pay, because what was done with the former was a cowardly and illegal act. After his departure, the scandals of all kinds followed, ignored by the clique of puppets who called themselves lawyers. And today, once again, we face more subtle scenarios, but with the obvious certainty of what the current National Police leadership has done against the Public Prosecutor's Institutionality pursues the same ends.- LA PRENSA, July 23



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OPINION: Justice delayed is not justice


Panama Supreme Court

Posted 27/07/2019

Justice is one of the pillars of the welfare of society, and of the competitiveness of its economy. In the case of the Panamanian, there are important barriers that the judicial apparatus must overcome, to be in tune with the times and expectations of the citizens. Apart from the obvious and thorny issue of corruption, there is a very heavy burden that marks the mark of justice on Panamanian society: its slowness. In 2013, some residents of Punta Paitilla requested the annulment of an environmental resolution that authorized the construction of two towers of 40 floors each. With a delay of six years, the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court found that residents upset with the towers were right. The buildings are already built and close to being occupied. The actual effect of the sentence is totally unfair. There are banks, insurance companies, subcontractors, and even clients, who may have acquired presale properties, which would be affected by a demolition. Why the delay? Panamanian courts see tens of thousands of cases that exceed their capacity, which transfers the cost of damages from judicial default to citizens. The saying goes well: "late justice is not justice." That is what happens with a large number of courts and tribunals, which are not able to produce results on time, to protect the rights of people living in this nation. LA PRENSA, July 27



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Black Friday Court puts clamps on biggest bribery investigation


PROSECUTOR Zuleyka Moore calls ruling “unfortunate”

Posted 03/08/2019

Panama’s  Second Superior Court has denied extending the deadline for further investigation of the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Panama -bribes paid by the Odebrecht Company during three administrations.

After the August 2 decision which means  that key information  could be missing from the case being developed by anti-corruption prosecutors Prosecutor Zuleyka Moore  told media last night that there is still an analysis of what happened  the 2006 and 2008 period, when Martin Torrijos ruled the country; and the documents that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that refer to the nicknames of some who received millions of bribes  in the Torrijos and Varela administrations.

"It is a very unfortunate subject because it is a line of investigation that the Public Ministry did not reach," Moore said.

She said that, unlike Panama, countries such as Colombia, Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico still have ongoing research.

Moore said they will analyze what will be the next steps of the Public Ministry and what resources they will interpose. The prosecutor said the case was opened in January 2017 and was paralyzed for six months, waiting for the Twelfth Criminal Court to give an extension. In the end, the court gave them one more year for the investigation, which expired in April.

La Prensa described the announcement  as part of  Panama’s  “Black Friday“

There was no official pronouncement or even a press release. The news was disseminated through Twitter, in the Judicial Branch account after 4:00 pm.

Prosecutor Moore warned that Martín Torrijos's period or documents that were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists cannot now be investigated.

With this scenario, the prosecution will not be able to continue investigating the bribes that the Brazilian company would have paid during the period of the government of the PRD Martín Torrijos (2004-2009). Nor will it be able to analyze information from the Structured Operations Sector - the Odebrecht department of bribery  

$100 miilion bribes
In total, according to what prosecutors have disclosed, Odebrecht distributed more than $100 million in bribes in the country. Between 2010 and 2014, when Ricardo Martinelli was president they paid $96.7 million in exchange for public works contracts. While between 2006 and 2008, with Martín Torrijos as ruler, according to prosecutors, they would have delivered bribes for about $10 million.

Five projects awarded under the presidency of Juan Carlos Varela (2009-2014) were investigated. The Panamenista Party, to which Varela belongs, would have received $ 10 million from the construction company through former South Korean ambassador Jaime Lasso, through the V-tech and Poseidon societies.

Between 2006-2008, during the management of Torrijos, Odebrecht was awarded three works: the Remigio Rojas system, the Cinta Costera 1 and the Madden-Colón highway. The companies: Marpesca Seatrade LLC, Caribbean Holding Services, Ltd., Vernell Development Corp, and World Securities, among others, were under the spotlight.

"Despite all the obstacles the Public Ministry has been through, the Odebrecht investigation is a strengthened investigation," said Moore.



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Panama an international laughing stock


Posted 03/08/2019

Five years have elapsed since the Lava Jato operation in Brazil began. Far from closing the case, every day that passes, new lines of investigation are opened. In Panama, judges and magistrates, on the other hand, seem very committed to the investigated, accused and suspects, because invariably, the victims are the last priority when the accused dismiss that foul smell of corrupt politicians.

While the rotten smell is repugnant to the whole country, justice administrators seem to enjoy it. The decision to close the investigation of the most emblematic case of corruption - proven and confessed - only demonstrates how far the magistrates are committed to rot, how far they are willing to go to cover, bury and silence.

Their decisions not only make the country an international laughing stock, but they leave us as provincials in matters of justice. Not content with this, the same magistrates confirmed the dismissal of all accused in the case of the Savings Bank, among which was former Vice President Pipo Virzi.

The decision of these magistrates - who in the Odebrecht case leave the period of former President Martín Torrijos (2004-09) out of the investigation - underscores with a thick line the future of corruption cases in Panama. And all this happens when the PRD, led by Laurentino Cortizo, is just one month in power. LA PRENSA, Aug 3



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Panama needs judges brave in the face of corruption – Transparency International


A tainted Supreme Court

Posted 09/08/2019

The Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom , the Panama chapter of Transparency International (TI) , said Friday  that the administration of justice, both in the investigation and prosecution function of the Public Prosecutor's Office, as well as the resolution function of the  Judicial Branch " throws a negative balance "in the multiple cases of corruption in the country. 

The negative balance includes "unexplained dismissals, annulment of evidence, interim judges with nefarious records and others." And now it is "crowned" with the decision of the Second Court of Justice to close the investigation time of the "greatest corruption scheme in the history of the country: the criminal activity of the Odebrecht company in Panama," said a statement from the foundation. 

"It is a decision that we question and denounce from procedural law, as it is a cause that exceeds the complexity criteria," says the statement

"Corruption counterattacks and impunity is its quintessential weapon,"

It also sends a message to the Public Ministry and the Executive  requesting  be more "proactive, brave and independent" to take all appropriate actions to "exhaust the last instance in the Supreme Court of Justice."

It  reminds them  of President Laurentino Cortizo's promise to appoint magistrates and attorneys "without political, business or family ties." 

"If we want to end impunity, we need the best justice operators: probos, independents, with judicial experience and brave in the face of corruption," the Foundation adds.



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OPINION: Wiretap ruling- cancer of impunity


Posted 10/08/2019

Martinelli adopted some of the favorite words of President Trump and told reporters the trial was a “hoax” and blamed former President Juan Carlos Varela - who was his vice president in the 2009-2014 period



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Martinelli acquittal highlights justice in crisis - Tranaparency International


artinelli yodels :"The iKing"

Posted 11/08/2019

The acquittal of former  Panama president Ricardo Martinelli, accused of political espionage and embezzlement of public funds has sent a message to the world that Panama’s judicial system is in crisis says Transparency International (TI) which lists the ex-ruler still facing multiple investigations as one of the most corrupt people in the world.

It comes at a time when the country is seeking to clean its image after numerous cases of corruption.

Martinelli was extradited from the United States, where he fled in 2015 to avoid Panamanian justice and faced a  prosecution call for  a 21-year jail sentence for spying on about 150 opponents during his administration (2009 -2014).

However, the Court, headed by a former governor appointed by Martinelli, dismissed the evidence and considered that "fundamental principles of due process were violated."

With this ruling "what was evidenced is the deep crisis of the administration of justice," Olga De Obaldía, executive director of the Panamanian chapter of Transparency International, told the international news agency AFP.

"These decisions highlight the rot and corruption that exists in the judicial body," complained the inRead created by Teads

In the last four years, about 30 corruption cases have been opened in Panama, but convictions against senior officials are almost non existent. According to De Obaldía, they end up in dismissal or in "extrajudicial arrangements" between the prosecution. Martinelli himself, included by Transparency International in a list of the "most corrupt people in the world", has multiple cases detained in the Supreme Court.

Former presidents Ernesto Pérez Balladares (1994-1999) and Martín Torrijos (2004-2009) avoided being tried for different reasons.

The " Panama Papers " scandal, of  a Panamanian law firm that created opaque companies to evade taxes worldwide, or the bribes of the Brazilian multinational Odebrecht have remained in impunity, despite the confessions of the company.

"What is certain is that the administration of justice has not engaged in the fight against impunity and corruption," said Carlos Lee. president of the Citizen Alliance for Justice.

According to experts, the absence of a judicial career based on merit; The appointment of judges by magistrates of the Supreme Court, based on non-professional criteria and the absence of an independent court to monitor their actions facilitates impunity.

If you also realize that the magistrates themselves are chosen by the presidents on duty, according to their ideological or personal closeness, and that many judges work on an interim basis, which limits their independence by not having their position secured, the crisis is served, they warn.

"The king"
 Panama President, Laurentino Cortizo, has promised to reform justice and launder the international image of the country to attract investments. "We must give back to our people confidence in justice," Cortizo said after Martinelli's release.

He will not have it easy says AFP. A month ago, a report from the US State Department said that "corruption is rampant" in Panama.

The country also occupies position 93 (of 180 countries) in the index of corruption perception of Transparency International. "The best message is not being launched to create international investor confidence and to be recognized as a country led by a political class committed to transparency and the fight against corruption," said Lee.

After being released, Martinelli went to a party accompanied by a Mariachi and.  sang, according to images shown on social networks: "With money or without money, I always do what I want", from the famous Mexican song "El Rey"(The king).  While the former president celebrated his freedom, messages of disgust and dismay toward Panamanian justice multiplied, reports TVN.

"History has taught us that when we think we hit bottom, an even deeper background can come," De Obaldio said.



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Judges who absolved ex-president got administration plums


Paúl Vergara (left), Roberto Tejeira (center next to Mayín Correa) and Arlene Caballero (right) were chosen as judges of the trial of Ricardo Martinelli - TVN News

Posted 12/08/2019

The three judges who on Friday, August 9 unanimously declared former president Ricardo Martinelli not guilty of illegal wiretapping and embezzlement sending shock waves through civil society had all been appointed to well-paid positions by the ex-ruler during his time in office and had close links to the CD party he founded and funded.

The judges who have since been castigated by political and legal observers including Transparency International were highlighted by TVN Noticias on Monday, August 14.

The judges were Roberto Tejeira, Arlene Caballero and Raúl Vergara, who one legal critic prophesied will go down in Panama’s history of a corrupt judicial system.

The presiding judge Roberto Tejeira was appointed by Martinelli in 2009 as an advisor to the Ministry of Government and Justice. Subsequently, he was Secretary-General and Deputy Governor of Panama, a position that reports directly to the Executive. The Governor he served with was MayínCorrea, who aimed to run for substitute deputy to Martinelli had he been allowed to run in the May  5 election. Instead, she was elected deputy. On August 8 and 9, and was in the courtroom as a faithful friend and co-partner of Martinelli.

Arlene Caballero was the reporting judge. Previously, she was the coordinator of the Office for the Implementation of the Criminal System of the Judicial Branch (OISPA) and then was secretary of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) during the presidency of José Ayú Prado who also has close ties to Martinelli who appointed him as Attorney General and later as  Supreme Court judge . Ayú Prado declared himself disabled in the wiretapping case.

The third judge was Raúl Vergara, who previously served as the Eighth Criminal Circuit Judge of Panamawho handed down the conviction to the Colombian José Nelson Urrego, for money laundering. As a substitute magistrate of the Second Court, he signed the decision that condemned journalist Rubén Polanco for slander and insult in 2012. The sentence was annulled the following year when it was determined that Vergara did not properly support the conviction.

Vergara was the one who read the decision on August 9, in which Martinelli pleaded not guilty.

The journalist Rubén Polanco, victim and complainant in the wiretapping case filed a challenge asking for the three judges to be separated from the case since their impartiality was questioned. The Superior Court of Appeals denied the challenge.

Martinelli was charged with the inviolability of secrecy and the right to privacy, peculation, abuse of authority and against computer security. The prosecution requested 21 years in prison.

On  Monday, August 26, the sentence will be read. Subsequently, the prosecution and the complainants may challenge that decision through an appeal for annulment in the Superior Court of Appeals or an appeal to the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court



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Battling downpour to protest impunity and court ruling


Posted 13/08/2019

Undeterred by torrential rain that flooded many of the capital’s streets, scores of members of the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso)   protested yesterday in front of the Supreme Court on Monday. August 12

Waving red flags they shouted slogans against impunity, and against the verdict of the trial court that declared former president Ricardo Martinelli "not guilty" of the accusation of political and peculated espionage.

 "Prison for the corrupt and to return the stolen ...", read one of the banners

Frenadeso and related organizations held a press conference on Saturday, August 10, to repudiate the court's decision and, said that the ruling “is a mockery”, since they consider that the Martinelli administration (2009-2014) has been “one of the most repressive”, due to the events that occurred in the provinces of Bocas del Toro, with the so-called "Chorizo Law"; and in Colón, with the attempt to sell the lands of the Colon Free Zone.



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Panama sending corruption impunity message worldwide


José Ugaz

Posted 15/08/2019

The absence of punishment in high profile corruption cases in Panama sends a message of impunity, to the world says the former president of Transparency International José Ugaz.  

On the verdict that declared former President Ricardo Martinelli not guilty  in the wiretapping trial he said that "it is a case that has passed through the sieve of American justice and that comes with an accumulation of evidence, through a series of subterfuges and arguments that have been rehearsed for a long time  it ends in impunity. I think it is something that must be solved because when these cases of great corruption occur and go unpunished, the tendency is to repeat. "  

The lawyer participated on Thursday, August 15, on the second day of the XXXIII Hemispheric Congress on Prevention of Money Laundering.

In addition to the case of Martinelli, he mentioned the scandals of Odebrecht and Mossack Fonseca, which have had greater criminal and political consequences outside, than within Panama.  

The lawyer described the message sent by justice to citizens as much as to the world as "bad" when, for formal terms or for legal contraptions, "it is not evident what is evident."  

Ugaz also said  that Panama and has been put back on the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force, which identifies countries with deficiencies in the fight against money laundering.



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OPINION: Judicial  corruption moving Panama to failed state


The Supreme Court

Posted 19/08/2019

There are many problems facing the country, but some of them require urgent solutions. Every day that passes we dangerously approach a state of failed justice. It is clear that without impartial judges - that is, not responding to political criteria or corruption - the country is playing something much more important than releasing a criminal. Their rigged sentences can harm the economy, the image of the country,  reduce the attraction of foreign investments, encourage entry into sanctioning lists, alter social peace and governance. Even national security can be affected. It is not small or a side issue. The only thing that organized crime, government corruption, drug trafficking, and even a common criminal need is for judges to sell or do favors of any kind.

That is enough to put the country on its knees. And the Government must understand that its responsibility is that justice does not collapse. And it has responsibility for it because it appoints magistrates, because its politicians put their hands and feet in justice, because in their ranks drug trafficking moves at ease, even under political and legal protection. Looking the other way is just allowing the expansion of the borders of crime to levels still unsuspected.

 If now the Government does not do something, we will end up with a failed State. Just see what happens in Venezuela. because in its ranks the drug traffic moves at ease, even under political and legal protection. Looking the other way is just allowing the expansion of the borders of crime to levels still unsuspected.- LA PRENSA, Aug 19.



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Change of faces needed in Supreme Court says anti-corruption guru



Posted 19/08/2019

Panama needs a deep reform of justice and a change of faces in the Supreme Court says José Ugaz, former president of Transparency International who has devoted much of his life to fighting corruption.

 He made the comment in an interview with Telemetro Reports when referring to the corruption index in Latin America and Panama.

According to the latest report of the Perception Index of the Transparency Corruption International, in 2018 Panama made no progress in the fight against corruption and obtained a rating of 37 (0 is very corrupt and 100 very transparent). And was ranked 97 on a list of 180 countries.

Ugaz said that the current president, Laurentino Cortizo, has an immense challenge and the great possibility of making a historical change in the country.

“For that, it is necessary to break with the past and initiate the deep structural reforms that Latin America needs and, in particular in the case of Panama is in the public consciousness for a  permanent claim is the change of justice, ”he said.

"A deep reform is needed that changes the rules of the game and, of course, the faces of those who are now sitting in the Supreme Court or making decisions in a system that has clearly shown their inability to resolve Panama's conflicts," Ugaz concluded.



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Panama competes for Latin America corruption trophy


Posted 29/08/2019

Panama not Puerto Rico, the latest victim of President Trump’s bullying tweets is in the running for the title of the most corrupt country in Latin America.

The country has the highest per-capita income in the region according to scales heavily weighted in favor a minority of robber barons who continue to plunder with impunity the assets of the state while leaving the payment of taxes to the less well-endowed subservient majority. Meanwhile  another  set of scales wielded by a compliant judiciary  blind to anomalies and  under a perpetual “for sale” sign ensures that the balance of power remains where  it has been since the Spaniards first landed on the Isthmus while the descendants of the flock of lawyers they brought with them continue to benefit from maintaining the status quo.

Recently the Concolón group of journalists organized, within the framework of the FIL Panama, the presentation of the book Lost: Who wins the corruption cup in Latin America? , edited by Argentine journalists Diego Fonseca and Martín Caparrós.

The book, composed of 19 stories of journalists from all over Latin America, includes a profile of Ramón Fonseca Mora written by the journalist Sol Lauría, which portrays the lawyer within a context and a cultural construction marked by "exclusion."

"In Panama, the elite manages to build a State that is confused with a law firm or a law firm that ends up being the State," says Diego Fonseca, columnist for The New York Times .

In that sense, Fonseca continues, "Panama ceases to be a nation to become a huge offshore bank ."

"And that opens up the possibilities (...) that Panama's corruption could be endemic, caused by Panamanians themselves, or indirect corruption, which makes it easier for other corrupt people to be able to hide their money in a paradise," he comments, referring to the profile of the lawyer of the controversial firm Mossack-Fonseca, which closed operations in 2018 after the Panama Papers scandal now the subject of a Netflix movie.



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OPINION: Panama’s sick justice system

Posted 02/09/2019

The series of reports that we publish today is based on the findings of a citizen who, feeling violated by local justice, contacted an Israeli intelligence agency to help him document the vices of the system. Once hired, undercover agents were given the task of attracting and speaking to a Panamanian lawyer who, in order to sell his services to an alleged Russian client, showed off the tricks he knows how to use to manage, from permits to judicial decisions. The material - recordings and videos - was obtained in Spanish territory and first disclosed in that country. Once this newspaper had access to the recordings, since they were private, the question was: Do we publish?  If today our readers have access to this story and the audios that support it, it is because we conclude that freedom of expression has a dimension that entails the obligation to disseminate information of public interest and that our duty is to guarantee the community that right. That said, it only remains to be noted that these publications expose in a stark manner a wound that is still open and that threatens an entire country. Our justice system is sick – LA PRENSA -Sep. 2



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Sting operation lifts lid on judicial mafia


Janio Lescure - left,next to Ana Belfon - his lawyer - hile escorting a mutual client: Mayer Mizrachi.

Posted 02/09/2019

A Panama businessman frustrated by constant judicial decisions which he believed were bought, hired an Israeli detective team to investigate the judges he suspected, and their probe led to the unveiling of a corruption network that spread government entities and fingered prominent justice and administrative figures.

The revelations were published in La Prensa on Monday, September 2 in spite of threats of legal action from some of the characters named.

The report kicks off with a reminder that when ex-president  Ricardo Martinelli was in El Renacer Prison awaiting trial for illegal wiretapping he offered to pay each complainant $75,000 to each to drop their case against him. Instead, lawyers asked for $1 million each, Martinelli refused and boasted he would rather give $1 million to each Supreme Court judge. A draft decision by then judge Oyden Ortega, agreeing to a Martinelli defense request to move his case to an ordinary court was leaked to the media.

The businessman in explaining his reasons for using an Israeli team -Black Cube- pointed out that to probe communications of people approaching judges would require judicial authorization -asking permission to probe their colleagues.

The investigation uncovered a corruption network that went far beyond the businessman’s own case including the  Migration Directorate, the Ministry of Labor, the Panama Mayor’s office and bribes to magistrates of the Supreme Court.

“The reports of his case were barely the tip of a gigantic iceberg, “ said La Prensa.

untitled_-_copy.jpgAt the center of the investigation was local lawyer Janio Lescure,  who had previous links to  James Shackleford an American night club operator in Panama, arrested in Colombia for white trafficking With his “credentials” established   Lescure  became the target of an elaborate sting operation as Black Cube operatives posed as wealthy Russians planning to open brothels and nightclubs, staffed by Russian women in Panama.

They recorded multiple meetings in Panama, Madrid and Barcelona in which Lescure gave details of what he described as Panama’s  “judicial Mafia.

Lescure spoke of the payment of bribes at the request of the Executive, as well as the payment for judgments to magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice, tailored to his clients, who, however, deny having paid a penny.

Janio Lescure achieved his goal: he left them impressed, but not in the way he expected. The Panamanian lawyer - invited by some potential clients to Spain - confessed that the Panamanian justice is a "mafia", but a mafia from which he can take advantage, especially, of magistrates of the  Supreme Court of Justice from whom he can obtain custom judgments.

Janio Lescure is not one of those high-profile lawyers on television. But his clientele is not exactly unknown. He has acted - for example - as part of the defense team of Mayer Mizrachi, accused of crimes against public administration to the detriment of the Government Innovation Authority.

But Lescure's notoriety is not just for that case. About ten years ago, Lescure was sanctioned by the  Supreme Court for violating the Lawyer's Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which forced him to suspend the practice of law for three months.

At the end of January, Lescure was the subject of a report in Crónica, a publication of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo . Its title: “ The Spanish trap of the Panama lawyer who 'pays the judges'”

La Prensa  had access to audio excerpts from the meetings that led to the report in Spain and can now be heard on prensa.com.



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