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512 face probe in bus compensation scam

buses once raced each other for passengers
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At least 63 officials of the past government have  been summoned  to  the  Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office as part  of an  investigation alleged irregularities in the compensation granted to the owners of the  Panama’s notorious  “diablos rojos” (red devils), discarded US school buses,  that once jammed the streets  of Panama city before they were largely elbowed aside by Metro buses.

The ex-officers are part of a list of 512 people, including former directors of the Transit Authority (ATTT), and transport leaders and bus owners.

The investigatory statements began on October 15.

Roberto Moreno, Ventura Vega, and Jorge Ricardo Fábrega are the former directors who will participate in the investigation. Along with the ex-sub-director Nicolás Brea.

The reasons for the complaint date from 2015 and are regarding sudden changes from trunk route to corridor, to get increased compensation (from $25,000 to  $75,000),  for buses that did not offer the service or did not discard for scrap, the buses they had been paid for.


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“Thieving devils”  named in multi-million compensation scam

Compensation bonanza
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The names of the owners of hundreds of Panama ’s diablos rojos (red devils)  -outdated US school buses-  under investigation in a multi-million dollar compensation scam, were published by TVN on Wednesday, October 31.

The denunciations were interposed by the ex-director of the ATTT Juan Pablo Mora; the former Minister of the Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriu; Gabriel Peñaloza; Edilma Alonso; Eduardo Samudio; Rubiela Ramos de Palacio; the lawyer Víctor Martínez; and an anonymous report.

The investigations by prosecutors began on October 15. The alleged irregularities occurred because compensation payments were made for buses that did not have receipts showing they had been discarded; others who were not providing bus services but were compensated others made last-minute route changes through brokers to qualify for higher payouts.

In 2010, more than 2,700 “red devils ” went out of circulation to make way for the Metrobuses. with the owners receiving  an estimated compensation of over $96 million

The compensations were given depending on the service provided by each bus:

Red devils trunk route: $25,000 ;  Red Devils Corredor routes $35,000; Corridor buses $50,000; Corridor “Fridge type” buses : $75,000 .



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Lawmakers charged  in multi-millions bus compensation scam

The devil's graveyard - a pot of gold
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LAWMAKERS from Panama’s two main political parties are among 532  former owners of Panama’s discarded private buses known as Diablos Rojos (Red Devils)  who are charged with embezzlement in a multi-million dollar compensation scam when the aging, poorly serviced former US school buses were replaced with a newly purchased Metro bus fleet.

Named are Carlos Santana, of the ruling  Panameñista Party, and Diógenes Vergara and his deputy, Milciades Navarro, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), and  Franz Wever, (PRD) current Secretary General of the National Assembly, also allegedly involved in the Pandeportes scam.

The accusations must be sent to the Supreme Court described as  “competent “ to investigate deputies.

The latest revelations of the plundering of the taxpayer-funded state treasury by elected officials follow the scandals of $400 million in electoral district scams,   millions in fraudulent contracts and payrolls and in the bottom of the barrel the disappeared millions through Pandeportes to non-existent sports leagues while performing athletes went unfunded.

The increasing scandals lend support to the Chamber of Commerce pronouncement that with its corrupt lawmakers and judges protecting each others backs  Panama is close to being a failed state.

Between 2010 and 2014, the State paid $94.8 million in compensation for 2,649 diablos rojos which ended up in a  devil’s graveyard.

Investigations of the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office reveal that officials of the Transit  Authority (ATTT) acted in association with owners of concessions to manipulate the system.

The prosecution, led by  Kira Tascón , discovered that the bus routes removed from circulation were reassigned to other owners, to benefit from the compensation.

The corruption scheme also involved transport organizations that, in partnership with the new concessionaires, operated a shell game re-allocating routes and quotas with ATTT connivance reports La Prensa.

The  con, according to the investigations, was done in record time, so there was no way to verify the quotas, and once reassigned and transferred, with ATTT backing the door to collecting  compensation for closed routes  was open

Indemnity was $25,000  for  a trunk route; $35,000, for brokers; $ 50,000  for each Coaster bus; and $75,000 for buses with air conditioning.

The compensations were paid from 2010 and until 2014, as an economic compensation of the State, after approving a contract with the Mi Bus Company.

The prosecutor’s office confirmed that there was alleged complicity between officials of the Legal Advice Department of the ATTT, who were aware of the irregularities in compensation.

Inquiries show that the IT Department of the ATTT has an excellent database, in which the history of a Certificate of Operation could be corroborated; however, the information was not verified by those in charge of the compensations.

Complicity presumably involved the Evaluation Technical Commission, the auditors of the Treasury and Finance and Accounting Department, who prepared the check without verifying the data.

It also indicates the alleged responsibility of the general director of the ATTT, who gave his guarantee for the payment; and the Comptroller General, which endorsed the payment.

Among those charged are, the ex-directors of the ATTT Jorge Ricardo Fábrega, Ventura Vega and Roberto Moreno; the ex-sub-director, Arturo Araúz; and the ex-director of the Unique Vehicle Registration Nicolás Brea.

The prosecution also accused Juan Pablo Mora, former Secretary of Goals of the Presidency in the last government, and about 10 auditors of the Comptroller’s Office.

Other anomalies
The investigation shows is that buses were detected operating on non-existent routes and buses without air conditioning got $75.000. Most had expired insurance policies and others had no passenger insurance.

Another anomaly was that certificates of operation of corridor routes were issued prior to the construction of the corridors. For example, certificates of operation were issued for the Southern Corridor route in 1999, but the route was inaugurated in 2000.

Buses with the mechanical damage that had not been functional for a long time, were admitted to the graveyard to get compensation.



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Ex-transit boss loses appeal in $94.8 million compensation scam


Ventura Vega

Posted 19/02/2019
The Eighth Criminal Court denied an appeal to The former director of the Panama Transport Authority (ATTT) Ventura Vega Osorio, who heads a list of over 500  allegedly involved in a $94.8 corruption scam over compensation for “retired” diablos rojos,(red devils) the predecessors of the current Metro bus system.

Vega wanted to invalidate an investigation order of October 2018, prepared by the Anti-Corruption Discharge Prosecutor, in which the charges are imputed and ordered to investigate it.

So far 204 people have gone to the investigation of 528 imputed in the fraudulent receipt of $94.8 million compensation.  paid between 2010 and 2014.

Judge Leira Terán, in her ruling, sustained that part of the functions of Ventura Vega director general of the ATTT was to direct, supervise and oversee the operation and control of all land transportation services in accordance with the law and the regulations. That is to say, said the judge, "to the correct development of a process of compensation to the concessionaires".

She added that the file determines that there are voluntary agreements between the parties that allegedly should not be compensated. In addition, those officials of command and jurisdiction called to verify "in detail the documents and certificates of operations to avoid damage to property", did not comply with the appropriate procedures.

Because of the alleged anomalies in the compensation for buses, the prosecution charged 528 people.

Among the accused are the former directors of the ATTT Jorge Ricardo Fábrega, Ventura Vega and Roberto Moreno, and the ex-director of the entity Arturo Araúz.

Also on the list is the current Secretary General of the National Assembly, Franz Wever, who has to appear this week before the Public Prosecutor's Office.


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Ex-Minister loses appeal in transit scam probe


Jorge Fabrega

Posted 21/02/2019
A Former Government Minister  must appear before anti-corruption prosecutors  to face questioning about alleged embezzlement related to compensation of  owners of Panama’sT diablos rojos (red devils) buses when they were replaced by the Metro bus system

The eighth criminal judge, Bárbara Batista, denied Jorge Ricardo Fábrega an appeal seeking to annul the order of inquiry.

Lawyer Eduardo Sequeira, filed the appeal for annulment claiming that when the prosecutor's office began the investigation Fabrega was acting as Minister of Government and, therefore, the said agency of instruction did not have the competence to investigate it.

Judge Batista denied the appeal, as, at the time copies of the file went to the Attorney General to assume the investigation of Fabrega he was a minister of State, but once he had lost his status as a minister the Attorney General's Office returned the summaries to continue the investigation.

Fábrega was appointed Minister of Government on January 13, 2012, and before, between September 2009 and 2012, he was the director of the Transit Authority (ATTT).

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office ordered his investigation because part of the red devil's bus compensation - under investigation for alleged anomalies- was during his administration.

The case file includes an audit of the Comptroller General revealing r alleged irregularities in the process, during which the State disbursed $94.8 million. Of 2,649 compensation certificates, the prosecutor's office is investigating 573 for alleged anomalies.



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Jet-setter suspect  flaunts travel record


Franz Wever

Posted 22/02/2019

After several hours of questioning, the Secretary-General of the National Assembly, Franz Wever, left the offices of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office bearing a precautionary order to report once  and month bans him from leaving the country.

Wever, who twice failed to show,  went to the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office for the investigation into the multi-million dollar compensation scam of bus quotas, known as "diablos rojos ", to make way for the operation of the Metrobús transport system.

The controversial former deputy, who twice failed to be re-elected but is still on the Assembly payroll and is angling for a magisterial post has long figured in the administration of various sporting bodies which have enabled him to travel the world without having to purchase a ticket or pay for a meal or hotel room.

Faced with this precautionary measure to, Wever responded that it is "better because I am tired of traveling, I have gone to 53 countries and four continents, so I cannot go anywhere else to continue spending money".

Regarding the alleged compensation received, he said that he only charged for a bus he had at the time and added that he showed all documents to the Prosecutor.

According to the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office 528 people are being investigated, of which 63 were civil servants of the Transit and Land Transportation Authority and the Secretariat of Goals, while the other 465 are transporters

The investigation showed that there was a disproportion between the existing quotas in 2012 (1,762) versus the 3,317 compensations paid in 2014, whose amount reached $95.9 million.

It also reveals mentions that there were reassignments of quotas so that the owners obtained more benefits, with an endorsement from the concessionaires and from the authorities.

Wever, who is also president of the National Swimming Federation, aspires to be a magistrate of the Court of Auditors.



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OPINION: Red Devils owners caught red hande


Decommissioned buses

Posted 26/05/2019

While Panamanians enjoy two Metro lines and a fairly friendly urban transport system, operated by Mi Bus, which replaced the infamous "red devils", one can not forget the negotiation of compensation for these public transport. Between 2010 and 2014 a total of 2,649 owners of certificates of operation of these vehicles were compensated. The compensations had a range between 25 thousand and 75 thousand dollars, according to the type of vehicle and the assigned route. The State disbursed 94.8 million dollars in the operation, which quickly became a complex web of investigations and a very long judicial case that still has no convictions in sight. Panamanian justice has shown great weaknesses, and the case of the compensations of the "red devils", which involves politicians, businessmen and transporters alike, is a very clear example of what is wrong with our justice. It is unforgivable that, after so many years, judges and magistrates have lent themselves to the abuse of dilatory measures that defense lawyers have interposed in a generalized manner. In spite of this, it is clear that the most important lesson of this case is that opacity always favors conflict of interest and, therefore, great corruption is fostered -LA PRENSA, May 26.



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Setbacks for tranit embezzlement defendants


Multi-million dollar graveyard

Posted 26/05/2019

Two prominent figures including a former minister have had court setbacks  in the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils)  compensation embezzlement .scandal  i

The Eighth Criminal Court denied a release bond in for  Roberto Salomón Homsany, and the Second Court of Justice rejected an appeal for annulment presented by the former Minister of Government, Jorge Ricardo Fábrega.

Homsany and Fabrega are under-investigated by the Public Prosecutor's Office for alleged embezzlement in the compensation of "red devils" buses during the  Ricardo Martinelli administration (2009-2014).

In the case of Homsany, in a ruling of May 17, Judge Leira Terán Turcios rejected bail request for bail for Homsany,  in view of the risk of flight escape -with  the economic resourceshe he  has-, and destruction of evidence.

The Anticorruption Prosecutor ordered the arrest of Homsany on April 3, 2019, after establishing that through the company Fincap, SA, of which he is legal representative, 18 buses were compensated: 17 supposedly operated on 10 routes,

Among the routes were: Chilibre / Corredor Norte, Pedregal / Corredor Sur, Panama Viejo / Avenida Balboa / Albrook, Torrijos Carter / Corredor Norte, Panama Viejo / Avenida Balboa / Calle 12.

The ruling states that all certificates of operation paid to Fincap, SA entered the bus compensation process with resolutions of the years 2010 and 2011, and that the possible impact caused would reach $2.4 million.

The judge warns that the amount of damage caused to the State may increase, so it is necessary to maintain the detention measure to Homsany.

 Fabrega Case
In the case of former Minister Fábrega, in a ruling of April 26, 2019, the Second Court of Justice confirmed the decision of the Eighth Court to deny  an appeal seeking to annul the proceeding against him.

The defense argued that the case should have been processed under the rules of the accusatory criminal system (SPA), because when summaries began, he served as government minister between 2012 and 2014. Prior to this, he was the director of the Transit Authority (2010-2012).

The magistrates, rejected the argument.



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$24 million bus compensation claims 98.2% fraudulent


THE END of the road for diablos rojos.

Posted 23/06/2019

$24 million  bus compensation claims 98.2%  fraudulent 

Compensation claims by the owners of Panama’s notorious diablo rojo (red devi)l  buses were 98.2%  fraudulent  says  anti-corruption prosecutor Kyra TascónT

Of the 590 "red devil" bus quotas that were analyzed  most received economic compensation from the State to which they were not entitled.

Tascón.is carrying out the investigation related to alleged irregularities in the compensation process of the "red devils" (old US school buses) , after being replaced by the Metro Bus transport system in 2010.

According to the prosecutor, only 1.8% of the economic compensations that the State paid were "honest", the rest were "fraudulent.

"This means that most were compensated with irregularities, to which they had no right,  she said.

The prosecutor said that in the investigation it was discovered that the people who supposedly signed the procedures for compensation, at the time they are investigated, do not recognize their signatures on those documents.

She reports that groups of transporters from the city of Panama traveled to the interior to buy luxury buses that they introduced as if they had provided the transportation service in the city, in order to collect the State compensation.

It has also been detected that there were people who twice delivered the same bus.

During one of the inspections, the prosecutor found a bus with a Mañanitas-Corredor route certificate, "but when the decal was removed, there was another route underneath" she said

An audit report from the Comptroller General detected a possible patrimonial injury to the State of over $24 million or allegedly irregular payment to 590 operating certificates of the "red devils".

In the process, 528 people have been charged, including former employees and transporters. Of that total, 399 people have surrendered reports La Prensa..

Among those charged by the prosecution are the former directors of the Land Transport Authority (ATTT) Jorge Ricardo Fábrega , Ventura Vega and Roberto Moreno; the sub-director of the entity Arturo Araúz, and the former director of the Unique Vehicular Registry  Nicolás Brea and,Franz Wever, current Secretary General of the National Assembly.

The prosecutor said that the investigation people were grouped in different situations and different facts, but with the common objective of embezzling the State.

A new line of investigation opened s when 275 certificates of operation were discovered that were not part of the audit of the Comptroller's audit.

"Every time a test is done, it brings more and more tests, and brings more involved and more certificates of operation, to the point that right now we have almost 275 certificates of operation to investigate," said Proscón.



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$1 million bail for bus embezzlement suspect


THE DIABLOS graveyard inPanama Paciico

Posted 27/06/2019

The Eighth Criminal Court has  set the bail of public transport operator  Carlos Arcia, facing  embezzlement charges  in the compensation of  diablos rojos (red devils)  between 2010 and 2014 

The measure was recorded in a resolution on June 18  signed by the eighth alternate criminal judge, Katherine de Suárez, who also imposed Arcia a precautionary measure preventing him from leaving the country.

In the investigation, the Fourth Anticorruption Office charged 532 people, including Carlos Arcia, who, according to the investigations, would have received $500,000 for the compensation of 7 buses.

According to the prosecution, in the compensation of the buses, there were alleged irregularities.

To determine the amount of the bond, the said  that it applies because the investigation has not yet concluded and that it is an offense committed to the detriment of a State entity, whose alleged involvement is substantial.

Between 2010 and 2014, the government ordered the compensation of 2,469 "red devils" buses to give way to the Metro Bus system.



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OFF THE CUFF: Court grounds jet-setting former official with country arrest


Franz Wever

Posted 18/07/2019

Franz Wever the peripatetic former secretary of the National Assembly and ex-lawmaker whose, world travels over decades have been funded from the public purse has finally been grounded – by a judge.

The Eighth Criminal Court granted bail of $150,000 while awaiting trial  for by alleged embezzlement  in the economic compensation of the diablos rojos (red devils) buses  through the Transportation Authority (ATTT)

In a  June 25, ruling , the substitute judge Katherina de Suárez said that Wever has the precautionary measure of an impediment to leave the country and the responsibility to inform the court if he changes his address.

 He considered that there is no danger of destroying evidence, or risk of neglecting the process and  Wever does not represent danger

Wever, investigated for the alleged commission of crimes against the public administration, according to the investigation, charged $75,000 in compensation for an operation certificate for the Ciudad Bolívar-Corredor Norte route. It was a small amount when set against the cost of his taxpayer-funded jaunts.



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592 facing trial in $24 million  red devils compensation  scam


Owners of buses heading for the wrecker's hammer claimed they were still operating

Posted 27/10/2019

Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Kyra Tascón is preparing to call  532 people to trial for alleged embezzlement of over $24nillion in the compensation of "red devils " (retired US  school buses).

This, follows the expiration of eight months granted by the Eighth Criminal Court, to conclude the proceedings.

In that time, calligraphic tests on the accused were carried out by experts from the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences.  to confirm the authenticity of those who signed the bus operation certificates.

The prosecution also requested banking information on the movement of money in accounts belonging to the related parties, performed medical examinations of some of the syndicates, and resolved hundreds of testimonies submitted by defense attorneys.

Between 2010 and 2014, when  Ricardo Martinelli ruled the country, 2,649 owners of operating certificates were compensated, when Metro buses were introduced, which represented a disbursement of $94.8 million.

$25,000 was paid for the red devils of regular routes and $35,000 for those who were traveling through the corridors, while $ 50,000 was given to those who had coaster buses and $75,000 to those who had luxury buses.

The prosecutor's investigation showed that some buses were compensated up to twice, and in other cases they were compensated for buses that were actually junked and no longer in circulation.

Among those charged are the former directors of the Transportation Authority (ATTT), Jorge Ricardo Fábrega, Ventura Vega, and Roberto Moreno. That list also includes the former deputy director of the entity Arturo Araúz; and the former director of the Single Vehicle Registry of the ATTT, Nicolás Brea. 

Franz Wever, former secretary-general of the National Assembly (2014-2019), and current adviser to the Legislature is also facing charges.

The Comptroller General detected a possible patrimonial injury to the State of over  $24 million for the allegedly irregular payment of 590 operating certificates.



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