Panama's CSN: the hand that rocks the Attorney General's Office

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  • Wed, 10/03/2018 - 18:58
  • Panama America

According to recent publications of the local newspaper La Estrella de Panamá in its recent investigations including downloadable documents, Rogelio Saltarín, referenced as the "President Varela's lawyer" was hired through his firm, Saltarín, Arias y Asociados, to gather evidence to file complaints, held 153 meetings with 29 institutions, including the Security Council and the Ministry of the Presidency, could have been the key player between the CSN and the Attorney general´s office agenda ruled by the government.

The publication bases the investigation on Rogelio Saltarín, and that between July 2014 and December 2015, received $ 385,200 for his services. According to their recent investigations and documents, they accuse the Security Council of drawing the road map of the Attorney's Office.

The documentation submitted shows the denaturalization of the Security Council's intentions and its interference in the Public Prosecutor's Office. According to the publication, the entity was presented to protected witnesses in cases of corruption.

In its investigations and evidentiary documents, the entity with which he met the most times was the National Security Council (CSN). There are records of 25 meetings. The purpose could be to gather sensitive information or evidentiary material that could be translated into criminal complaints before the Attorney General's Office (PGN). The contracts establish that the Ministry of the Presidency is obliged to provide the consultant with the support required for the execution of the consultancy, including a physical space in the facilities of the Presidency.

It involved members of the Financial Analysis Unit (UAF), the Cleaning Authority (AA), the Directorate General of Revenues (DGI), or the former National Assistance Program (PAN). Saltarín met, for those 18 months, seven times with President Juan Carlos Varela, to 'coordinate tasks', as published in this pdf (link to http://laestrella.com.pa/documentos/2018/10/Informe_Gestion.pdf)

Saltarín mentioned two meetings with Kenia Porcell, one while serving as undersecretary of the Security Council, and another in May 2015, when she was already the head of the PGN, to coordinate on the presentation and follow-up of criminal proceedings that arise in different government entities', says the management report of Saltarín.

In some of these meetings with the president, the UAF, the Cleaning Authority (AA), the General Revenue Directorate (DGI), or the former National Aid Program (PAN) participated.

To comply with the road map drawn from the Palace of Las Garzas, Saltarín held meetings with the Cleaning Authority, the CSN, the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA); with Varela; with the manager and legal advice of Tocumen, S.A; with Rafael Stanziola, former director of the former PAN and with Kenia Porcell.

He also met with presidential adviser Francisco Sierra; with senior officials of the Government Innovation Authority; of the UAF; of the National Secretariat of Science and Technology (Senacyt); of the Ministry of Health; of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Authority (Ampyme); of the Ministry of Public Works; of the National Institute of Art and Culture (INAC); of the PGN, of the Institute of Training and Human Resources (Ifarhu); and the National Lottery.

There are uncertainties about the way in which Saltarín obtained the evidence to design the complaints. "In the procedure, the CSN provided the evidence and then pushed the judges and prosecutors," said a criminal lawyer. From the CSN, the source added, there was "a vertical control of subordination over the investigation, given the large amount of work that prosecutors have, the rush to respond to public opinion and the long time that prosecutors must invest in those complex investigations'.

Reports of the Prosecutor's Office revealed an alleged irregular handling of the allocation of accounts and calculation of commissions for the company, and even commissions for the payment of taxes of the company Tocumen, S.A.

Certainly, adds the lawyer consulted, 'that there was an organization to terminate the contracts that had been awarded to the last administration. What amazes me is the coincidence of the Security Council involved in this'.

Saltarín met once a month with the former Minister of the Presidency, Álvaro Alemán, in order to report the actions carried out and coordinate those of the next month.

Dionisio Rodríguez, president of the National Bar Association (CNA), and said 'If this is true, we consider that these are very serious irregularities that should be investigated under this concept'.

Among the cases that were attended by the law firm, the state-owned joint venture Tocumen, S.A., stands out for contracts made by the previous administration. According to the newspaper concerning Tocumen, S.A. and Line 2 of the Metro, it is evident that the government was unwilling to complicate its relations with Odebrecht, because it would compromise those two emblematic projects that should be ready for WYD 2019, an important event for the Varela administration.

So far, of the cases investigated by attorney Saltarín, there is a sentence, that of Luis Cucalón, in the Cobranzas del Istmo file. At least 7 contracts were finalized between the State and the private company, and hearings are missing in more than 9 cases.

The Estrella de Panamá spoke with Cucalón, and during the interview he said: '' Tobín 'Salerno came to my house one day and told me that he met with José Luis' Popi' Varela (brother of the President) and with 'Picuiro' (Rolando López, Secretary of the Security Council) and they threatened to send his daughter to jail.

He was told -he added- that he had to accuse Cucalón 'because otherwise they would sent her to jail. The meeting was held in early April and he told me that I had to understand him because she was his only daughter," added the accused.

"The attorney general has to go out and clarify if it is true, if it is false, what is true in the media's remarks," said Dionisio Rodríguez, president of the ANC

In statements to the newspaper, the former Minister of the Presidency Álvaro Alemán broke away from the routine activities of the Security Council. He limited his function to the administrative field. "I took care not to get involved in CSN operations," Alemán said.

If the original intention of the National Security Council (CSN) was to erase the traces of his involvement to design the criminal complaints that ended up in the Attorney General's Office (PGN), the result was counterproductive.

The evidence shows an undeniable collusion between the CSN and the PGN in the preparation of files to support alleged corruption offenses. A judicial source told La Estrella de Panamá that he was summoned to the CSN for a specific case. "They showed me the documentation that corroborated an alleged unjustified enrichment of a high judicial official," he said. For a lawyer knowledgeable about these procedures, "the CSN certainly pushed for testimonial evidence and the PGN to hear the complaints." All that 'strangely fills a gap' because 'the participation of the Security Council could push prosecutors and judges,' he said.

Alemán denied more than a dozen times knowing the lawyers who work for the CSN, including Hidalgo Padilla, as well as the routine operations carried out by that entity.

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