President Varela’s brother implicated in corruption in Panama
Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Development: On 28 May two Panamanian national deputies, José Luis Varela of the ruling Partido Panameñista (PPA) and Benicio Robinson of the opposition Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), denied involvement in yet another unfolding corruption scandal.
Panama, Dec 5 (Prensa Latina) The Panamanian government's silence about donations received from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht is adding fuel to a strong campaign on alleged corruption targeted at President Juan Carlos Varela.
Entrepreneurial and civilian guilds assure that the president must face society and explain the use of those funds, which total 10 million dollars, according to judicial reports, to reach the presidency of the country, the newspaper La Estrella said on Tuesday. The president's brother, Jose Luis Varela, who currently leads the ruling Panameñista Party, told local media that the Brazilian firm did not make the donations directly to either the campaign or his party in the 2014 election. According to him, Jaime Lasso (a physician and former diplomat), who was related to Odebrecht, supported them with political and social expenditures, like promotional materials, among others. Varela denied that the donations outside the electoral period had to be reported to the relevant body, although he noted that they are gathering information about the money received from 2009 to 2013 to publish it. When the issue made headlines some time ago, Varela denied any kind of involvement with Odebrecht and accused his opponents of spreading groundless rumours, but after evidence was produced recently, he admitted that his party received the money.
Ex-president Varela faces money laundering investigation
Former Panama President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019), appeared on Thursday morning, July 2, at the Special Anti - Corruption Prosecutor's Office in the Odebrecht case, who summoned him to face an investigation for alleged money laundering while his predecessor, Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014). was attending an interrogation by the Second Specialized Prosecutor Against Organized Crime who called him to investigate the New Business case, about the purchase of the Grupo Epasa allegedly with public funds.
"I answer to the Public Ministry, which has summoned me," said Varela when he arrived at the headquarters of the prosecution, shortly before 9:00 am, where prosecutor Ruth Morcillo was waiting for him. Minutes earlier, Martinelli had entered.
A week ago, in another process linked to Odebrecht that took place under the accusatory criminal system (SPA), the judge of guarantees Irene Cedeño validated the evidence in the complaint filed by Sidney Sittón and Miguel Antonio Bernal against Varela, and which also reaches the former Minister of Public Works and former treasurer of the Panameñista party , Carlos Duboy, and the former diplomat Jaime Lasso and his daughter Michelle.
Ex-president Varela returns to corruption investigation
While much of Central America’s media attention was focused on the Guatemala court appearance of the sons of a former Panama president on Tuesday, July 7 another former President Juan Carlos Varela, as at the Public Ministry (MP), for the extension of an investigation in the Odebrecht case.
Varela, upon arrival, said that he came in compliance to give statements, ready to answer any questions, accompanied by his legal team and all the relevant information that refers to questions.
" I am here to answer any question from the Public Ministry, like any citizen, an honest man does not run away, he shows his face, " said the former president.
According to Varela, for him, there is no better way to defend the honor than to appear before the authorities to answer any question. " I am one more Panamanian who is answering for my public life, the best legacy and defence that one can leave for your children is a name and if you have to come to clarify something, you have to do it, " he said, adding that he will go to the Public Ministry as many times as required, because he is a responsible man and that he maintains the correct procedural attitude.
On July 2, Varela attended the investigation at the Anticorruption Prosecutor's Office, which lasted more than eight hours. A precautionary measure to prevent Varela from leaving the country and reporting on the 30th of each month was applied.
Setback for Varela defense at control hearing
The defenders of former President Juan Carlos Varela and former Housing Minister Carlos Dubois suffered a setback at the legality control hearing requested by the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office as part of an investigation being carried out for alleged money laundering and association to commit crimes...
In the reserved hearing, at the request of the Public Ministry and with the consent of the defence, Judge Irene Cedeño legalised countless tests provided by banking entities within the investigations, considering that due process was complied with without affecting or restricting fundamental rights...
Marta Sánchez, the deputy prosecutor, said that the defence opposed the request to validate the bank information, however, the guarantee judge considered that none of the rights of those named in the case had been violated.The Public Ministry participated in this hearing, which was represented by the Prosecutor Marta Estela Sánchez; Particular Technical Defence was exercised by Graduates Erasmo Muñoz and Cosme Moreno. Ms. Denise Ruíz acted as Public Defender.