February 27, 2021

The president of Panama describes as "unforgivable" the case of Odebrecht bribes

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo said on Monday that the Odebrecht scandal is "unforgivable" and has done "untold damage" to the region and to Panama, one of the countries where the Brazilian transnational confessed to having paid bribes to get contracts.

"What Odebrecht did (with the bribes), not only Panama and the region, is unforgivable," the Panamanian president said in an interview with the US network CNN en Español.

Cortizo, who took office last Monday for the 2019-2024 period, noted that the Odebrecht bribery scheme continues its process in the Panamanian justice system, with which the construction company reached a cooperation agreement "involving all the people who were part of all these corruption operations. "

"They continue to work here through this effective collaboration agreement, but the damage that (Odebrecht) has done to Panama and the region has been incalculable," he said.

For the Odebrecht case, which remains under the secrecy of summary, there are more than 80 accused in Panama, including two sons of former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), who is under house arrest while facing a trial for alleged political espionage and peculation.

The Odebrecht scandal erupted in December 2016, when the US Department of Justice revealed that Odebrecht paid about 788 million dollars in bribes in a dozen Latin American countries, of which 59 million were in Panama.

The Panamanian Justice validated a year later the agreement reached between the Office of the Prosecutor and Odebrecht, which includes the payment of a fine of 220 million dollars and the file of the case in Panama against the company and its former directors in the country for having collaborated in the research.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), based in Washington, revealed on June 26 that Odebrecht's corruption scheme reached huge public works projects not mentioned to date in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. , among others.

In the case of Panama, where the construction company was for years the main contractor of the State, they include alleged payments of more than 18 million dollars in the first metro line of the capital or more than 7 million in the expansion of Tocumen, the main Country airport.

Cortizo also referred to the scandal of the "Panama papers" and told CNN in Spanish that he could not say if the country has left "free of dust and straw" of this scandal, but his government has just created a "unity for competitiveness for international (financial) services "to strengthen them and make them more" transparent ".

In April 2016, hundreds of media outlets reported that personalities from all over the world hired the services of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to manage their assets through offshore companies and presumably evade taxes.

That scandal broke out shortly after Panama left the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in which it had entered in 2014, which was a blow to the international image of the country.

Last June, the FATF again put Panama on its gray list of countries that have deficiencies in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, and made a series of recommendations for a new revision in June 2020. .

(tagsToTranslate) president (t) Panama (t) qualifies (t) unforgivable (t) Odebrecht

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