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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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Posted (edited)
On 12/25/2019 at 1:28 AM, Keith Woolford said:


This judge acquits so quickly that he can move through 40% of the high profile corruption trials in Criminal Circuit Courts. 


The above Judge sat down for a LaPrensa interview last week for the column "Knockout".


This story followed on December 30th.

Leslie Loaiza, fifteenth criminal judge, refused to accumulate in a single file the summaries followed to the former Minister of Public Works concerning Federico Suárez, for the alleged commission of crimes against the public administration, to the detriment of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP).

This was announced yesterday by the Judicial Branch in a statement. The document detailed that the decision was taken on December 30 through Auto 204.

In recent days Rosendo Miranda, defense lawyer of Suárez, filed a petition so that the case followed by the former minister for alleged irregularities in the construction of the Vía Brasil corridor, section II, work that was done by Spanish construction company FCC, was accumulated in the office of Loaiza, who is handling another process of Suárez, related to the extension of the Via Cincuentenario, work that was done by Odebrecht.

The case related to Vía Brasil is currently under the jurisdiction of the Eleventh Criminal Court. The Fifteenth Court also manages another case of Suárez, which is followed by an alleged cost overrun on Domingo Díaz, a work that was in charge of Ingenieros Civiles y Asociados, S.A. and the construction company Meco.

The Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office had filed an appeal before the court opposing the accumulation of the proceedings. He argued that "the facts and crimes charged are different in time, manner and place.

 Loaiza, this time coincided with the prosecution. He said that the cases do not have the same defendants, together with the fact that they are different facts, committed at different times. "There is no connection between them."

He added that the aforementioned processes are at different procedural moments, and that accepting said petition "would violate guarantees and fundamental rights of the accused."


Loaiza has been in the public eye for the treatment she has given to cases where corruption is investigated. He has in his office 40% of the high profile cases in which corruption is investigated. Many of those investigated in these processes have been set free of charge.

In the Knockout published by La Prensa last Sunday, the controversial judge assured, for example, that he has his own definition of peculation, when he states that: “… I have authors who say that for there to be embezzlement economic heritage is referred to. The judges are independent in our discretion.”


This is the link to the Knockout interview if anyone wants to translate it.



Edited by Keith Woolford

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OPINION: Criminals disguised as judges,,politicians

Posted 06/01/2020

When the rules of the Accusatory Criminal System were established under the principle of procedural equality of the parties, the corruption of the deputies was vulnerable. The complicity of the great majority of the members of the National Assembly in the period 2009-2014 blinded them against complaints for their alleged participation in criminal behavior. Hence the infamous "ideal test" was born. With the presentation of Judge Olmedo Arrocha, the Supreme Court decided that Deputy Sergio Gálvez is exempt from being investigated in the case of Buko Millonario, precisely because of the lack of suitable evidence. In order to be corrupt, two parties are needed, just as to guarantee the impunity of the deputies, the Supreme Court of Justice is needed. If the magistrates wanted, they themselves would have repealed as unconstitutional the norm of the Criminal Procedure Code that bases impunity. However, the occupiers of the Court, even those who claim to be renovators, know that the deputies can also investigate them. While this double impunity lasts, the country will be held hostage by criminals and corrupt disguised as politicians and magistrates LA PRENSA, Jan.6



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Panama’s unique tool to stall justice


Posted 08/01/2020

The electoral criminal jurisdiction remains an exaggerated and unnecessary shield against justice. As are the electoral rules, from the moment a person begins his participation in an internal process of a political party, it is covered by the jurisdiction.

 Not only do the candidates benefit from this armor, but also the organizers, jurors, board members, and the party hierarchy are protected. This armor reappeared as a threat, in the case of Pandeportes, against former Adolfo Valderrama. After overcoming that obstacle, a collection of signatures appears on the horizon to call elections in the Democratic Change party. just when very high profile cases approach crucial stages and involve members of that party, These internal elections will give jurisdiction to many of those mentioned in prosecutors and courts.

The consequences of this generous shield are visible. The country has the opportunity to correct this abuse that they only have the candidates for elected positions in the final tournaments, .in the National Commission of Electoral Reforms, which will soon begin its work.  Keeping it as it is is another mockery against democracy and justice. - LA PRENSA, Jan 8



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Cortizo promises firing and jail for kickbacks


Posted 17/01/2020

In an impassioned speech at the close of the Agricultural Cabinet Council, held in Chiriquí on Thursday, January "16 President  Laurentino Cortizo, on Thursday,  January 16 made a call to magistrates, judges and the comptroller to "pull up their socks and prosecute any official who asks for kickbacks in exchange for a contract.

"In this government, it is not necessary to pay bribes to obtain a contract or expedite a process," said Cortizo

"You are warned ... don't use my name, you know me, don't provoke me. No PRD member, no vice-minister ... Don't test me," Cortizo added.

The President specifically mentioned two entities Idaan and the Sanitation Authority. "I have an eye on them."

"The one who dares, I will feel it and I will get him to sing. After I throw him away and  take him to the Public Ministry to put him in prison."

"Put me to the test they didn't make me with condensed milk, I'm not here to play the little games," Cortizo said. "They must understand that we are here to work and serve the people, that is why we are here, not to rob," said Cortizo



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Justice delayed fans impunity

Posted 26/01/2020

Seneca already said: “ Nothing is so much like injustice as late justice" And our Supreme Court of Justice, in addition to fanning impunity, when it tries to do justice ends in a cartoon, because many of its decisions arrive so late that they end up being unfair to their protagonists. And of these failures abound, some of them, emblematic, like the one that decreed the nullity of the land concession contract where the Playa Bonita hotel was built, in Veracruz; or the case of the law contract with the mining company Petaquilla - which now has Minera Panama in limbo -; or the few failures that cancel environmental impact studies when the projects they refer to have been executed, or a very recent one, in which the Court lost jurisdiction, after years of having the Cemis case in its hands. And now the magistrates issue a ruling on a land conflict in Darien that comes with years of delay and that will probably cause new conflicts, as they already occurred in the past in this same controversy, in which several settlers were accused of having invaded land Indigenous people in Darién. Doing justice is a privilege, but doing it late is a mockery.- LA  PRENSA,  Jan.26



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Gun toting mol gets plea deal, seeks community work


Posted 29/02/2020

A video circulated on social networks on the last day of Carnival that showed Dagney Yineth Ryfkogel Oquendo, 29 who, when arrested by National Police agents on the bridge of the Americas, took a gun from her shorts and threw it over the railings.

Before being handcuffed, she threw herself self on the ground and began to writhe provocatively in front of the officers. Meanwhile, they arrested several men traveling with her to Panama City.

Ryfkogel Oquendo already had a criminal record. She was investigated for armed robbery, and e was acquitted.but while in detention she escaped from jail, and was convicted of evasion.

Despite this background,  reports La Prensa, prosecutor Xochilt Castillo and defender Raymundo González agreed to a penalty deal and were sentenced to 50 months in jail, as well as a ban on carrying weapons once the sentence is served.

According to Castillo, the weapon was found and belonged to a 27-year-old man who was traveling with her in the vehicle. He is investigated for the alleged illegal possession and trafficking of weapons and explosives.

At a hearing on February 26, the woman accepted the crimes of concealment and obstruction of the work of a public servant and requested that the penalty be replaced by community work, a request that the Public Ministry did not oppose.

The request, however, was denied, because her lawyer did not specify where she would do the work. In the afternoon of yesterday, the judge of guarantees Tulia Morelos denied  the petition for the second because the defense did not present documents such as the endorsement of the health center of El Chorrillo Health  Center , where she intended to serve her sentence doing community work



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OPINION: Flagrant abuse  of justice system

Posted 29/02/2020

A small piece of the Panamanian justice puzzle serves as a sample for the analysis of public opinion. A woman with a criminal record threw a gun from the Bridge of the Americas after having disrespected police officers who were doing their job. Both the Public Prosecutor's Office and the guarantee court accepted a penalty agreement, when there was allegedly en flagrante offense, without requesting cooperation to solve other crimes.

Although she was not granted community work as a substitute for the 50 months in prison-issued against her, the mere fact of conducting a hearing to discuss such a frightening request. Is it that neither the prosecutor nor the judge understood what this behavior really is about? The attorney general of the Nation, Eduardo Ulloa, has the task of refining the criteria of his prosecutors to accept penalty agreements. It is intolerable that a health center or school had been the destination of the criminal's community work. Justice is not only what the codes say, but also what society needs. – LA PRENSA, Feb.29



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OPINION; Panama justice on hold


Posted 16/05/2020

ACCESS  to justice is an inalienable human right. This public service is essential for the proper functioning of society; compliance with family, labor, commercial and civil obligations, as well as the resolution of conflicts in a peaceful and effective manner.

The closure of most judicial offices, for health reasons, has been depriving Panamanians of the exercise and defense of their rights for more than two months. Saving lives by avoiding contagion from overcrowding and crowding in courts and tribunals has been a responsible measure that, however, deserves further consideration. The Judicial Branch has had sufficient time to evaluate the use of technological tools and other ways of conflict resolution that could well begin the reconversion of justice to an activity compatible with the criteria of the 21st century. Constitutional guarantees and due process are not negotiable, so judicial activity, on which 4 million Panamanians and tens of thousands of lawyers and other professionals depend, must continue.- LA PRENSA, May 16



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Ex-presidents head list of stalled corruption cases


Ricardo Martinelli and ons face Odebrecht probe

Posted 27/05/2020

Eduardo Ulloa Panama’s Attorney General has shuffled the deck of his top level criminal prosecutors leaving some observers concerned that some prominent suspects in high profile corruption cases could walk free or with   wrist slap.

 Zuleyka Moore is  out of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office, which is investigating  Odebrecht bribes totaling some $90 million. The case will be in the hands of Anilú Batista and Azucena Aizpurúa, who were assigned to by Ulloa in February

Tania Sterling and Ruth Morcillo will also continue to collaborate with the process.  The rotation announced on Tuesday also has an impact on the  Blue Apple  case , which was handled by the prosecutor Aurelio Vásquez, who will now be in a family office.

The special prosecutor's office and the future of corruption processes

Two prosecutors who joined the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office last February will be in charge of the Odebrecht case, considered the emblematic investigation linked to corruption in recent times.

These are Anilú Batista and Azucena Aizpurúa, who worked with Zuleyka Moore in the investigation.

Starting June 1, Moore will be the coordinator of the Panama West Regional Prosecutor's Office.

The arrival of Batista and Aizpurúa in the case last February was one of the first movements that Ulloa made after he took office on January 2.

Batista worked as a circuit prosecutor for the Early Decision and Litigation section, while Aizpurúa was a superior prosecutor ad honorem in the Prosecutor's Office for Superior Litigation.

In this scenario, anti-corruption prosecutors Tania Sterling and Ruth Morcillo, who are currently in charge of investigating the process, will collaborate with the mother case.

In the Public Ministry, they say that the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office “is a corporate office” and therefore the cases are seen together. "All the prosecutors who make it up have the same hierarchical level and any of those who make it up can act in each of the cases they handle, as a team of prosecutors," they said.

The origins
The Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office is was created on January 28, 2016, days after it was announced in the United States that Odebrecht had bribed Panamanian officials and individuals to obtain huge contracts.

Kenia Porcell, who then served as Attorney General, appointed four women to that office: Zuleyka Moore, Tania Sterling, Ruth Morcillo and Vielka Broce.

Broce retired in 2019. Her cases were distributed among her former colleagues.

Now, with the rotations ordered by Ulloa, that prosecution will be made up of Batista, Aizpurúa, Sterling, and Morcillo. This team will also be in charge of another of the significant cases: Blue Apple, the investigation that was carried out by Aurelio Vásquez, who will now have the position of Superior Prosecutor, Coordinator of Investigation and Assistance to Trial in the Family Section.

The Public Ministry  reported that the Special Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office will have “five other supporting prosecutors” and that there are the superior anti-corruption prosecutors, under  Adecio Mojica and Leyda Sáenz.

Mojica is in charge of processes such as the National Assembly payroll and contracts, the money laundering through the defunct National Aid Program and the Savings Bank scandal

Meanwhile, Sáenz advances the case linked to alleged irregularities in the funds distributed by the Panamanian Sports Institute (Pandeportes)   in the government of former President Juan Carlos Varela.

The movements in the prosecutors' offices were announced after lawyers, and followers of ex-president  Ricardo Martinelli said that prosecutors appointed by ex AG Kenia Porcell continued to lead the corruption investigations of the Public Ministry and that this would delay the cases. against Juan Carlos Varela.

Recently, the Assembly  Credentials Commission sent  10 cases against Varela and 3 against the ex-vice president Isabel De Saint Malo,  to the Public Ministry.

Currently , the work of the anti-corruption prosecutors is on hold  due to the pandemic. With court terms suspended and the files kept. Everything is slated to return to normal on June 8.

Odebrecht is one of the cases that must be reactivated. On March 12, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office imposed the precautionary measure to prevent the doctor Jaime Lasso, who in the past proclaimed himself as a “lobbyist” for the company from leaving Panama.

According to the investigation, through different companies linked to Lasso, the Brazilian construction company gave at least $ 0 million to the Panameñista Party led former President Varela at the time.

But, says La Prensa, the case also reaches the “zero circle_ of Martinelli when he was president including former Minister Demetrio Jimmy Papadimitriu, who would have received at least $4 million from Odebrecht through companies linked to his parents.

Martinelli’s sons   Luis Enrique  and  Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares  are also involved , as, according to former executives of Odebrecjt ,  they also received millions of dollars through different companies. Neither of them has faced the process. Their  whereabouts are unknown.

Ex-president’s dockets
Also on the list are the processes involving Ricardo Martinelli

Six cases were sent to the Supreme  Court.

These are the investigations for alleged irregularities in the collection of taxes through  Cobranzas del Istmo SA .; the complaint filed by Aurelio Camano for alleged anomalies in the sale of land in Veraguas; the complaint for granting pardons to people convicted and prosecuted for common crimes;  alleged irregularities in the granting of a loan from the Savings Bank;  alleged anomalies in the purchase of dehydrated food; and the complaint filed by the Superintendency of the Securities Market for the alleged use of privileged information for the purchase of shares in Petaquilla Minerals through the defunct Financial Pacific (FP). brokerage.  



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Panama - the continent’s laughingstock


Posted 01/06/2020

There are unequivocal signs that lead to the conclusion that there is an unwritten pact to neutralize the actions of the Public Ministry in high-profile cases. The events have been triggered from the moment the current Attorney General took office, last January.

Cases have stalled; prosecutor rotations lack practicality; the defense teams of the accused are loosening their management in favor of their clients, including the withdrawal of resources that they intended to delay their processes. One by one, each piece begins to fall in the exact place. By the time the puzzle is complete, we will be the laughingstock of the continent, with solid, documented, and proven cases that will end in shameful, but traditional impunity.

With everything, There are those who tear their clothes crying for justice because Panama does not get off the blacklists. But, at the same time, we do not renounce the most rampant corruption in the three organs of the State. With genuflex authorities, we will be condemned to live sick from the corruption pandemic. - LA PRENSA  June 1



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Controversial judge sidelined on vacation


Posted 22/06/2020

The controversial judge Leslie Loaiza whose frequent decisions in favor of high profile members of the Ricardo Martinelli administration angered civil rights activists has been sent on vacation for seven months at a time when the Fifteenth Court closed as part of the reorganization of the criminal courts of the mixed inquisitive system following the implementation, as of 2016, of the accusatory criminal system.

A number of his judgments remain under appeal.

According to the Judicial Branch, the files of the Fifteenth Court, which closed on June 15, were sent to the Single Registry of Entry, in order to be distributed randomly, to the Tenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Courts of Panama's criminal circuit with functions of liquidators.

Loaiza has made controversial decisions in cases such as backpacks, grain, and helicopter rentals, all linked to former officials of the Martinelli government.

On June 15, the Second Court, in charge of Johan Barrios, also closed for the same reasons. The records of this court suffer the same fate as those that rested in Loaiza's office.

But, unlike Loaiza, Barrios was placed in the Second Court of Justice, as an assistant judge, according to  La Prensa ources.

The transition process is coordinated by the Second Court of Justice.



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