One of the largest corruption cases ever recorded, such as the bribes paid by Brazilian company Odebrecht in more than 11 countries on several continents, named "Lava Jato", has also left traces in Panama.
However, although the scandal has been notorious in many countries around the world because it involves the presidents of several governments in different countries, the authorities of the isthmus have not clarified certain questions and have delayed the investigations.
Since late 2016 and early this year, the Attorney General's Office has shown some interest in the investigation of the case. A Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office was created to deal exclusively with the case, charges were filed against 36 people involved in the case of bribes in Panama, the Comptroller's Office has been requested to audit the contracts of companies that may be connected to the payment of bribes and a deadline has been set until the first days of July to receive any complaint or cooperation regarding those involved in the case of the Brazilian construction company.
"During the investigations of the case, inquest’s rulings and arraignments have been issued to 36 people, including three former officials, eight Panamanian businessmen, five foreign businessmen and a local private banking official," said attorney general Kenia Porcell, regarding the case.
However, several complaints have been made regarding the lack of interest by the authorities in investigating the government officials of President Juan Carlos Varela who are involved in the case.
"In Panama there is a feeling that many people of the current Government are involved in the Odebrecht scandal. It is the explanation that we offer to the investigation entities of the Executive Branch to reveal what is happening in the case," said Panama's former ambassador to the Organization of American States Guillermo Cochez in an exclusive interview with PanamaToday.
One of the precedents was the Panamanian government’s move to gain advantage from justice in the corruption case of the Odebrecht company, when Panama's security minister Alexis Bethancourt converted the cabinet of President Juan Carlos Varela in the complainant of the case of bribes or cost overruns granted by the Brazilian company in the country, before the Attorney General's Office.
Despite of rumors and accusations against government officials involved in the Odebrecht case, no clear evidence has been laid on the matter. However, certain leaks proof the involvement with these actors reaching the President of the Republic.
In the most prominent background is a statement issued by the Brazilian Public Ministry last year, where one of the witnesses of the case involved with the Brazilian construction company heard about two people who would have traveled several times to the Isthmus in 2014 to prevent the company’s affiliate in the country from cooperating with the authorities in Brazil.
Fernando Migliaccio da Silva, executive of the Brazilian construction company, responsible for paying the bribes of the company and close friend of Marcelo Odebrecht, said that two people associated with the company, Luiz Eduardo Soares and Rodrigo Tacla Durán, repeatedly traveled to Panama to avoid the government's cooperation with the investigation.
Another representative case was this year when one of the founding members of the law firm Mossack & Fonseca, Ramon Fonseca Mora, publicly claimed that President Varela "had accepted donations from Odebrecht because he could not fight with everyone".
For many, the national government has sought ways to divert attention to deal with the case. The "Zero Surgical Delay" program and the accusations against former president Ricardo Martinelli and his children are, according to former Ambassador Cochez, a strategy to divert attention from the results on Lava Jato’s investigation in the Panamanian administration.
"He (Juan Carlos Varela) can’t do what he wants as he said to the media. I see him very nervous and I think that may be because of what is coming with Odebrecht that perhaps will not be very good for him," said the former ambassador in an interview with PanamaToday.
Key points of Odebrecht trace in Panama
- 24 Open Research, including projects carried out by Odebrecht and subsidiaries in the 2004-2009, 2009-2014 and current government periods.
- 36 people indicted, including 22 Panamanians, 13 Brazilians and one American, although the prosecution did not give the names.
- 56 million dollars in assets apprehended: more than 22 million in Switzerland, 12.8 million in Andorra, 13.9 million in Panamanian banks; As well as 8 million for a helicopter apprehended in Mexico and a luxury apartment apprehended in Madrid, Spain.
- 30 international judicial assistance requested to Brazil, United States, Switzerland, Andorra, Spain, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbados, Virgin Islands, Mexico, Guatemala, Uruguay.
- Attorney Sitney Sittón said he has five petitions for international judicial assistance from the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's office, which seeks to reach the final destination of the alleged bribes paid by Constructor Odebrecht S.A. In Panama