The Supreme Court of Justice reported that the case for alleged corruption in the contracting of an irrigation project against President Ricardo Martinelli, arrested in the United States since June of this year and awaiting extradition, was "incomplete”; therefore, it is not admissible.
A judicial source explained to Efe that the Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office sent a certified copy of the file to the highest court, but did not attach the statement of one of the accused in which it allegedly involves Martinelli (2009-2014) and on which the Prosecutor's Office based the charges against him.
The same source added that "the copy is not admissible due to lack of suitable proof" and that the Public Prosecutor’s Office can re-send the complete file when this ruling is formally notified to the parties.
According to local press, the missing testimony is that of Panamanian businessman and former president Felipe Virzi (1994-1999), who allegedly claimed that Martinelli was behind everything.
The Ecuadorian company Hidalgo & Hidalgo won a $ 155 million tender in 2012 to design and build the irrigation system in the Tonosí district in the central province of Los Santos, 370 kilometers west of the Panamanian capital.
To start the project, which had to be ready by the end of 2014, Martinelli’s administration paid $ 38 million.
But the Ecuadorian company had problems to acquire land and finally suspended the work in December 2013, without having done practically nothing, except for a few studies and several sketches, and without returning the $ 38 million it had received from the state.
Of that money, according to the local press, about 10 million were allegedly distributed in illegal commissions to several people, including Virzi, who in June 2014 returned 5 million to the National Treasury.
The Supreme Court of Justice is the only institution that can investigate and prosecute Martinelli for his status as a Member of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen).
Martinelli arrived in Miami in 2015 after having been missing for several months after leaving Panama on January 28, 2015, the same day when the Panamanian Supreme Court opened the first of a dozen criminal cases currently charged against him.
The former president claims that he is subject to political persecution by current Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, who was his vice president and former electoral ally, and who denies such accusation.