Will “NITO” and new AG ULLOA help or squash the prosecution of the biggest thieves in the history of PANAMA.



In a kilometer unanimous ruling of 38 pages, the three magistrates of the First Superior Court of the First Judicial District decided, on January 3, to grant the superior anticorruption prosecutor Zuleyka Moore the protection of constitutional guarantees that interposed in the Odebrecht case.

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Odebrecht, a case in limbo, three years laterThe agreement with Odebrecht will be under the magnifying glass of Ulloa

Prosecutor Moore wanted the court to annul the decision of the Twelfth Circuit Judge, Oscar Carrasquilla, who had denied on May 3, 2019, to extend the investigation term of the Odebrecht case.

According to the ruling of magistrates Lilianne M. Ducruet, Miguel A. Espino, and José J. Karamañites, the Public Ministry, represented by Moore, has 5 months and 8 days, from when the decision is final, to conclude the most complex criminal investigation of recent times in the country.

The Odebrecht case consists of 600 volumes, has 82 defendants, another 122 subjects related to the investigation, and its development was delayed by 184 resources, 14 constitutional guarantees, and 10 electoral criminal jurisdictions.

Under the protection, the brothers Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, the former Minister of Public Works Federico José Suárez, and the businessman Aaron Mizrachi Malca were constituted as third parties.

Is the end of Odebrecht’s investigation approaching?

Brazilian construction company Norberto Odebrecht has been the largest contractor of the Panamanian state in all history. Throughout three governments of different parties, the company, very agilely, obtained contracts that included an irrigation project, three stages of the coastal belt, highways, the bay sanitation project, the expansion of the Tocumen International Airport, the reconstruction of the city of Colón, an electrical interconnection line, the expansion of the Pan-American highway and two lines of the Panama Metro.

The size of the projects and the amount of the contracts only dwarfs against the complex plot of corruption and international bribery that should be investigated.

According to the ruling of the First Superior Court of the First Judicial District, of January 3, 2020, collecting the data provided by the Public Ministry, the Odebrecht case has 600 volumes, 82 imputed, 122 people related to the investigation, 495 accounts Banking analyzed, 416 companies used for money laundering, all of which required 123 international assistance.

The investigations faced multiple obstacles that included, to date, 184 incidents, 14 constitutional guarantees and 10 criminal electoral jurisdictions, all of which delayed the investigation and made it difficult to obtain evidence in Panama and other countries.

The investigation faced its biggest obstacles in the repeated refusals of Judge Oscar Carrasquilla, of the Twelfth Circuit Court of the Criminal Branch. Carrasquilla denied the first request for extension made by prosecutor Zuleika Moore, by order 242 of October 25, 2017. The prosecutor appealed to the Second Superior Court, where for months the file was paused, until April 24, 2018 that court granted him the first extension for a term of one year.

In the meantime, between appeals for the defense of the 82 accused and the electoral process, the case slowed down. Prosecutor Moore requested a new extension in March 2019, but was again denied by Judge Carrasquilla, through order 74 of May 3, 2019. The prosecutor again appealed to the Second Superior Court of the First Judicial District, which decided, On August 2, 2019, reiterate the refusal to extend the investigation. It was at that time that prosecutor Moore had one last option: the protection of constitutional guarantees.

This extraordinary resource seeks to restore the legal order recognized by the Political Constitution and international conventions ratified by the country, and that has been violated by an order to do or not to do, issued by a public servant. Prosecutor Moore was to attack Judge Carrasquilla’s refusal to extend the term of the investigation. Their arguments were mainly two: the violation of the constitutional right to due process, and the impact that the Panamanian people would have on their right to the truth.

Within the process of constitutional guarantees, 4 of the 82 defendants were constituted as intervening third parties: brothers Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, represented by the firm of lawyer Carlos Carrillo; former Minister of Public Works Federico José Suárez , represented by lawyer Rosendo Rivera; and businessman Aaron Mizrachi Malca, represented by the firm Guerra y Guerra. The court found no greater merit in the allegations and arguments presented by these parties that, however, as third parties involved may appeal the decision of the First Superior Court to the plenary of the Supreme Court of Justice.

The investigation still faces major risks. With the arrival of the new attorney general of the Nation, Eduardo Ulloa , there could be a situation where prosecutor Moore was transferred, and a rookie prosecutor will handle such a complex case. Another threat is that the National Police does not assign the appropriate number of quality investigators to accompany the prosecution. We would remain the only democratic country in which the Odebrecht case goes unpunished.

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