The president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, acknowledged that his campaign for the country's Vice Presidency, in 2009, received contributions from Odebrecht through a third person, and stressed again that political donations "are not bribes" or constitute a crime .
"In my vice president campaign, I received help from that person and they were reported to the Electoral Tribunal," Varela said Thursday, referring to statements made by the ex-Consul of Panama in South Korea, Jaime Lasso, who told the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office that the ruling Panameñista party received some 700,000 dollars from Odebrecht in the 2009 campaign.
Varela's statements are given a few hours before the judicial hearing to validate an agreement signed between Odebrecht and the Panamanian Prosecutor's Office, which includes the payment of a multi-million dollar fine and the revelation of data about the irregularities committed by the company in the country.
The hearing is scheduled "within the process followed by Andre Luiz Campos Rabello, Olivio Rodrigues Junior and others, for the alleged commission of the crime against the economic order, to the detriment of the State," said the Judicial Body.
The $ 700,000 were delivered by André Rabello, the Odebrecht representative in Panama, to a Lasso foundation through various deposits, the ex-Consul said, adding that the funds "were reported for the candidacy of the 2009 vice president," according to the last edition of the newspaper La Prensa on October 30th.
In 2009 Varela first presented himself as a candidate for the Presidency but ended up opting for the Vice Presidency in conjunction with Ricardo Martinelli, who obtained the leadership of the State, an electoral alliance that was broken in mid-2011 amid reproaches and mutual accusations of corruption.
"These contributions were used as support for promotional material, propaganda, toys and social assistance throughout the country, and the support received by Mr. Jaime Lasso has been recognized and reported to the Electoral Tribunal," the party statement said.
Varela highlighted again this Thursday that "political donations are not a crime, bribes are a crime", and reiterated that he did not receive direct contributions from Odebrecht during the campaign for the Presidency in 2014.
"My campaign as president did not receive a direct donation from Odebrecht," the president said.
He added that his Government, which began in July 2014 for a period of 5 years, "has tendered $ 10 billion" in infrastructure projects, of which the Brazilian construction company "will not even have 1% of the bid."
El presidente Varela reconoció que #Odebrecht donó dinero a campaña a través de una tercera persona, cuando la compañía no estaba siendo señalada por actos irregulares. ▶ https://t.co/dHFROSQQp5 pic.twitter.com/l6pjF7UnBQ— TVN Noticias (@tvnnoticias) November 9, 2017