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Federico Suárez, former MOP minister, in the spotlight for the Blue Apple and Odebrecht case

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  • Tue, 10/16/2018 - 09:57
 Federico José Pepe Suárez
  • EFE

Last Friday, October 12, at night Federico José Pepe Suárez was arrested. Suárez, head of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) between 2009 and 2012, had been detained in Urbanización Embassy Club, located in Clayton, in Panama City.

He stood trial heard by two prosecutors: one for the Blue Apple case and another for Odebrecht's alleged cost overruns. In both he is investigated for the alleged commission of the crimes of money laundering to the detriment of public administration.

His appearance was ordered to be accountable for the Blue Apple case, regarding the alleged payment of bribes by contractors to the last government officials. That night, the former minister slept in a cell of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), in Ancón.

Yesterday morning he was transferred to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, in the Avesa building, in vía España, where the prosecutor interrogated him for the investigation that follows the track to the Blue Apple Services, Inc. Company (BAS), which collected $ 40.6 million in alleged bribes. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP), the money came to an account of Inmobiliaria GS del Mar, S.A., in Metrobank, linked to Suárez.

Suárez did not declare. He accepted Article 25 of the Constitution, which says that no one is obliged to testify against him. His preventive detention was ordered.

The Special Anticorruption Prosecutor -in charge of Tania Sterling- that investigates the Odebrecht bribery case also required him to explain his alleged involvement in alleged cost overruns in the project to preserve the historical heritage of Panama City (restructuring of Casco Antiguo). Suárez applied the same formula. He kept silent. He again appealed to article 25 of the constitution. His preventive detention was also ordered.

Suárez would have received $ 330,000 from BAS. The money would have come to an account held by Inmobiliaria GS del Mar, S.A., in Metrobank, linked to Suárez. The deposit was made with check 03031 dated July 12, 2013. The Eighteenth Court recently denied him bail.

The Blue Apple case also investigates Jaime Ford, who was minister of the MOP between 2012 and 2014. His lawyer, Basilio Enrique González, told the media that his client has already appeared in this case and that he is released on bail because he "is innocent".

The business man Riccardo Francolini is also prosecuted, who, according to his lawyer, Carlos Carrillo, recently appeared and invoked article 25 of the Constitution. In total, for the Blue Apple case, at least 35 people are standing trial.

Meanwhile, the basis of the file for the restructuring of Casco Antíguo is based on an audit by the Comptroller's Office that determined a possible cost overrun. The work cost $ 255.4 million and according to the audit, it must have cost $ 204 million, and therefore there was a cost overrun of $ 51.4 million. Suárez was the minister of the MOP when the project was awarded to Odebrecht.

Marta Linares also was called to declare on September 5 , regarding the Blue Apple case, she went to the Avesa building and after she declared to the local news:

"Today I came to Avesa with my lawyer to find out the reason why I was summoned, since I have been a Legal Representative of a Foundation since 2016. The facts investigated in the Blue Apple case are from 2012. The Foundation that I represent since 2016 has not received any money from Blue Apple," . "I personally told the prosecutor of the case that I will come back as many times as he needs necessary in order to clarify any doubts about it; my legal representation is since 2016 and the facts investigated occurred in 2012. That is to say at that time I was not a Legal Representative," added the former first lady to the La Estrella de Panama.

Former Public Works Minister (MOP) José Federico 'Pepe' Suárez was arrested Friday night by units of the National Police (PN) in compliance with the driving order of the Sixth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office for the BAS case. After the investigation was completed, the measure was issued.

Suárez, who is under investigation for the alleged commission of crimes against public administration, was placed at his residence in Clayton. Last Wednesday, the Eighth Court refused to grant him a release certificate from the MOP.

According to the investigations of the Prosecutor’s Office, the former official allegedly received $ 330,000 from BAS, which collected $ 40.6 million obtained from bribes to entrepreneurs who had contracts with the State.

The criminal organization diverted funds through five international jurisdictions: China, Hong Kong, British Virgin Islands, the United States and Switzerland, for the final beneficiaries.

On January 15, 2018, the Prosecutor’s Office, in a statement, reported on facts investigated in the Blue Apple case that the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office instructed for crimes against public administration and against collective security, for undue payment to public officials through anonymous companies.

The statement also informed that five effective collaboration agreements have been signed, of which three have been approved and validated by the jurisdictional authority.

One of them was businessman Eduardo Di Bello, executive director of the Ingeniería REC, S.A. Company; he bargained plea last January with the Sixth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor that exempted him from being investigated by the authorities in the Blue Apple case.

The indictment of the employer also consisted of the return to the State of $ 1.3 million product of irregular payments linked to the contracts that had been granted by the Ministry of Housing and Territorial Planning (Miviot) in 2012.

The Blue Apple case began in September 2017 in a report prepared by the Directorate of Police Intelligence that sent a report to the Prosecutor’s Office in which it was made aware of the Blue Apple company, allegedly composed of several people with the purpose of disguising or launder money supposedly obtained from bribes received by business people in exchange for the awarding of construction projects by the State during the last five years. For this, according to the document, they used bank and investment accounts in their name. The company was dissolved on August 23, 2012.

Of the B.A.S Case, a scheme by which they estimate that close to 40 million dollars were obtained from bribes to entrepreneurs who had contracts with the State. The Prosecutor's office investigated 1,656 people for corruption during the Martinelli era.

The Panamanian Prosecutor's Office reported today that it has opened investigations to a total of 1,656 people for various cases of corruption that occurred during the administration of former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), who is temporarily detained for illegal wiretapping.

Of all those investigated, the MP charged a total of 1,194 people, decreed 143 pre-trial detention and 372 precautionary measures other than pre-trial detention, the institution said in a shared infographic on its Twitter account.

The Prosecutor's Office also indicated that it has seized between 2015 and 2018 money and goods valued at 397.7 million dollars related to the various cases of corruption, including great plots such as the bribes of the multinational Odebrecht or those of Blue Apple.

Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela took office in May 2014 with a frontal speech against corruption and since then he says he has uncovered the corruption schemes of the previous administration.

The former president, who has other cases for corruption pending with justice, claims that he is a victim of political persecution by Varela, who was his vice president and chancellor.

 

Source: EFE

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