Before and after Odebrecht or Panama
Panama City/Prensa Latina
by Mario Hubert Garrido
Chief correspondent of Prensa Latina in Panama
This month of September will mark the final closure of the trial of those involved in the largest corruption case in Panama involving the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, a before and after for the justice of the isthmus.
Lawyer and university professor Jacqueline Hurtado said the trial, which was postponed in July due to the absence of defense lawyers due to health problems, was scheduled for the 12th to the 30th of the ninth month. of the year, was a travesty of justice. Citizens awaiting the result five years after the start of the investigation.
It would be an opportunity to demonstrate that the judiciary is impartial, or the beginning of a change in the judicial system, even if Hurtado believes that “we have already seen patients in other trials while they are on trial” . And when they are acquitted, they will jump.
On July 18, Judge Balois Marquinez adjourned the hearing until September.
The lawyer cited the standards of the Code of Criminal Procedure, saying the decision responded to the absence of defense lawyers, some unjustly, refusing to receive state benefits and representing some of the 62 defendants. private except on request
The hearing began with a live broadcast on television, but several excuses (some medical) from the defense lawyers arrived in court, which is why Marquinez suspended the act and postponed it to another date. .
Marquinez reiterated that agreeing to another trial date is only a power given by law to the court and the judge, not to the defendants or their defense attorneys.
He urged the defendants to appoint him and present him duly, even without their legal representative, who assists them; He told the lawyers that two thousand 752 sections (1 lakh 300 thousand pages) of the investigation started in 2017 and charges were laid.
The most significant corruption process in the country’s Republican history concerns the bribes that a Brazilian construction company paid to leaders, politicians and intermediaries in exchange for contracts with the State of Panama.
In the press release from Prensa Latina, Ruth Morcillo, who leads the public prosecutor’s team, specified that the prosecution would request the trial of 50 indicted persons, including two former presidents of the republic: Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and Juan Carlos Varela (2014). -2019).
The two sons of the first (Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares) are imprisoned in the United States, after having confessed to having stolen from Odebrecht 28 million dollars in bribes, following the instructions – according to him – of his father, the first. of the governor.
Neither Varela nor Martinelli then appeared in the courtroom, and lawyers later said their client was not required to appear because he had criminal electoral jurisdiction as leader of the Realizing Goals party amid internal elections. East; That benefit was withdrawn, for which he is expected to appear in court in September.
Analysts consider it shameful that Martinelli’s two sons were sentenced to 36 months in prison in New York, while criminal proceedings are just beginning in Panama.
In addition to the 50 natural persons, there is a legal entity: Importadora Ricamar, which commercially operates the Super 99 market chain owned by the multimillionaire Martinelli family.
Panama arrived late
According to a statement from Hurtado’s newspaper, La Estrela de Panama, the Odebrecht case has been settled across the continent, in which in each of the participating countries, all the culprits have been convicted.
They have already stated that all the money went through our bank, our country, and the people involved are Panamanians detained in other countries. Here we cannot have very different results with so much evidence and direct evidence, he said.
In this regard, the Vice President of the People’s Party also recalled that the world knew that all entrepreneurs were part of a system of corruption set up by the company throughout Latin America, and Panama was not doing exception.
According to him, successive governments have withdrawn information from public opinion, and in these sensitive times for the country, he felt that all the details should be known to the citizens, who today are protesting, raising their voices and a change deep. want to generate. community.
He supported the civil initiative against anyone who steals public money for his own benefit and hoped after this trial that all those who were part of the loot of the people’s money would remain behind bars, regardless of their position. Why not have a higher position than before.
Corruption is a cancer for countries and Panama is no exception to this reality, for the former president of the National Forum of Women of Political Parties.
“The authorities have made the Panamanian people prosper at the cost of money, nepotism and impunity. Odebrecht was a great university of corruption, waste and illegal enrichment. This test must result in all citizens being exposed to justice and our system. “encourages you to believe in me,” he remarked.
Questioned by local media, the former president of the National Bar, Alfonso Fraguela, described the trial as historic for the Odebrecht case.
In this regard, he clarified that it aims to punish and make accountable all those who enrich themselves with public money and positions held within the State.
He acknowledged that there are still aspects to reveal, but this does not represent something to be proud of, on the contrary. He said it was a criminal scheme where many people despised the Panamanian people by committing this crime against the public administration.
A former spokesman for the government of Martin Torrijos (2004-2009), which led major financial, banking and social security reforms, said the Odebrecht case would test Panamanian justice.
In other latitudes, presidents, former presidents and officials have ended up in prison and illegally acquired property has been confiscated. He argued that if Panama did not address the issue, citizens’ trust in the justice system and its role in a democratic country would quickly crumble.
Academics say Odebrecht was embroiled in the continent’s biggest corruption scandal and admitted to US officials that he paid millions in bribes in a dozen countries, nearly all of them in Africa and Latin America. , for which he was fined. . $1.6 billion.
In Panama, the company and the prosecutor’s office agreed in 2017 that the company would pay the state about $220 million over a 12-year period.