Former presidential candidate Ricardo Lombana said he is not surprised by the decision of the Second Court of Justice not to grant an extension to investigate the Odebrecht case , since in this case the Judicial Branch has always tried to avoid investigations.
Failure would prevent prosecutors from investigating two governments
Court denies more time for Odebrecht bribery case
Emblematic works in Panama, source of Odebrecht coimas
‘Cachaça’, the second beneficiary of the illegal payments of Odebrecht
That fact, warns Lombana, affects the image of the country, by the message of impunity that is sent.
The lawyer also told the Public Prosecutor’s Office of having been selective in a case that reaches the administrations of former presidents Martín Torrijos , Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, and described as offensive the degree of “complicity” that justice mechanisms have.
He argued that the ideal would have been the creation of a special prosecutor’s office, with powers to carry out high-profile investigations, without selective criteria. And, in the case of no national measure, resort to an international committee, as did Guatemala.
The architect Ricardo Bermúdez alleged that time constraints for such important corruption investigations in Panama produce these situations, but what is incomprehensible is that the Public Prosecutor’s Office has not opened processes to the number of those involved whose names and nicknames are known by the solicitor Kenya Porcell and its prosecutors, from the delation agreements, here and in Brazil.
The Public Ministry must define this week if it appeals the decision of the court.
‘Court ruling is inexplicable’
As inexplicable, Carlos Lee, of the Citizen Alliance for Justice , described the decision of the Second Court of Justice not to grant the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor an extension to investigate the Odebrecht case.
For Lee it is clear that Odebrecht’s is a typical case of what the criminal system calls “complex,” that is, those that are typified by the number of people involved in the investigation, by the circumstances used to try to erase the trajectory of the money that appears as a bribe payment, for the countries involved in the investigation and, above all, for the specialty of the criminal action investigated, since there was a legalized structure through corporations that was used to cover up the bribes paid to the officials.
Lee highlighted the fact that in the face of cases like these, the legislation allows the Public Prosecutor to request an extraordinary period to collect all the evidence that can guarantee a punishment to the investigated.
For all these reasons, he considered that it is inexplicable, legally, that the court has not acceded to the request of the Public Ministry to extend the term of the investigation, so that the prosecution could collect all the evidence that supports its theory of accusation and achieve an exemplary punishment to those responsible. With this determination by the court, the only thing that favors is “impunity,” he said.
Last Friday, the Second Court announced that it rejected an appeal by the special anti-corruption prosecutor Zuleyka Moore to be granted a second extension to complete new lines of investigation arising in the Odebrecht case.
The information was disclosed through the Judicial Branch’s Twitter account, without giving further details.
Upon hearing the court’s decision, Moore said it is a strengthened investigation, with convictions and assets recovered.
“We are satisfied with what we did and what corresponded to us as prosecutors, we responded to the citizens and investigated what was at the hands of the MP,” said Moore.
More criticism of the ruling
Annette Planells, of the Independent Movement (Movin) , said it is shameful to see that while other Latin American countries are advancing in the investigation and prosecution of the main corruption case in the region, the Judicial Branch of Panama decides to truncate the investigation, freeing responsibility in the process to new stakeholders that have come out following new publications.
Then we complain – Planells said – when they include Panama in international lists for lack of effectiveness in the international fight against corruption and money laundering.
The president of the National Bar Association, Juan Carlos Araúz, considered that it is a problem of structure of the criminal process under the rules of the mixed inquisitive system.
“Justice faces the limits of the law, cases like Odebrecht have always demonstrated the need for legislative assistance in many aspects, the system cannot produce decisions [that] although necessary are outside the budgets of what was conceptualized in the processes” he claimed.
He said that the debate lies in the legitimacy of the process and the sanction; and added that there is no doubt that the lack of political will, to provide tools to the process, creates a problem in the area of justice.
What is pending
The investigation of the Odebrecht case began in 2015. In April 2018, the Second Court granted a one-year extension to the prosecution to conclude the investigations, but that term was not sufficient, so a second extension was requested, which was rejected, according to the Judicial Branch reported last week.
This phase would include the administration of President Martín Torrijos (2004-2009), a period in which Odebrecht received his first contract, for the construction of the Remigio Rojas irrigation project in the province of Chiriquí, for $ 63 million.
During the Torrijos government, the Brazilian construction company won three other contracts, which in total totaled more than $ 500 million, and among which the construction of the coastal belt 1 stands out, for $ 189 million.
The period of President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) is also pending investigation, during which Odebrecht received the contracts of Line 2 of the Metro –for $ 2 thousand 62 million-, the Urban Renewal of Colon – $ 569 million–, and the rehabilitation of public spaces in Panama City – $ 100 million -, the latter awarded by the Mayor’s Office of Panama.
Public Ministry will analyze the ruling
05 Aug 2019 – 00: 00h
The Public Ministry analyzes the actions to be taken after the decision of the Second Court of Justice, of which it has not yet been officially notified.
Sources of the Public Ministry explained that it is necessary to know the content of the ruling, to then present some appeal.