Two former FCC executives ratify bribes in exchange for contracts



Two former Directors of Building and Contract Promotion (FCC) have ratified before the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office of Panama the alleged payment of bribes in exchange for the award of contracts in that country in the period 2009-2014, during the presidency of Ricardo Martinelli.

According to the Panamanian newspaper this Thursday The press, the former directors of the Spanish construction company, Julio Casla and Eugenio de Barrio, declared to the Public Ministry that their immediate boss, Avelino Acero, former General Director of Construction of FCC and today retired, met with the then Minister of Public Works Federico Suárez , who would have transferred to them that in order for the State to pay debts from previous projects they had to "pay a kick [un soborno] 10% "and that same percentage would be applied to new projects.

The declarants indicated that this practice was also assumed by other companies such as the Brazilian Odebrecht and the consortium formed by the Mexican ICA and the Costa Rican Meco.

According to La Prensa, these construction companies met in the offices of Odebrecht to distribute different contracts and agree on the prices of tenders. According to these testimonies, one of the interlocutors between FCC and the then Minister of Public Works was the lawyer Mauricio Cort, considered the frontman of Ricardo Martinelli, arrested in Panama and designated by the Prosecutor's Office as the person who managed, received and transferred the illegal funds .

Cost overruns of more than 100 million

The investigation to the Spanish construction company, which started in April 2017 for the payment of alleged bribes and extra costs for more than 100 million dollars in a work awarded in the Panamanian capital, "is open," he told EFE a few days ago. Panama's new prosecutor, Eduardo Ulloa. "What we have asked the Anticorruption prosecutors and we have reiterated is that they try to put the greatest dynamism, the greatest speed to these investigations," said Ulloa.

In December, a Panamanian court granted the Prosecutor's Office one more year to extend the investigation to FCC for the case, related to the road reorganization of Panama City and in which 14 people are charged for crimes of corruption and money laundering.

FCC is also investigated in Spain, where it has already appeared before the National Court and explained details about the payment, through simulated invoices, of 82 million dollars in commissions for public contracts in Panama and for which it is being investigated for corruption and Whitening.

Former President Martinelli was declared last year "not guilty" of the crimes of illegal eavesdropping and embezzlement of public flows, after the Panamanian Supreme Court was inhibited in the case after having obtained his extradition from the United States.

Odebrecht case

The FCC investigations have their origin in the so-called Odebrecht case, the largest corruption scandal in Latin America, which the new attorney general of Panama has proposed to reactivate. Ulloa took office on January 2 for a period of 5 years after resigning his predecessor, Kenia Porcell, for a scandal over telephone leaks by Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) that raised questions about his impartiality.

The investigation of the Brazilian construction company was detained several months after a court denied the Prosecutor a new extension, the second, to continue the investigations.

A report released by Porcell before leaving office indicates that in the Odebrecht case, which began in January 2017, there are 82 people charged with money laundering, international bribery and corruption, and that 16 people accepted their participation in these events through collaborative condemnation agreements judicially validated.

Ulloa did not rule out the revision of the agreement reached by the Prosecutor's Office with Odebrecht and validated by a Panamanian court, which includes the payment of 220 million dollars by the construction company, because afterwards there have been "information on a series of activities of the company in Panama "that were not taken into account.

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