Supreme Court president in financial scandal shadow

Ayu Prado and Martinelli
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THE FINANCIAL PACIFIC (FP) scandal that  may finally have alerted US authorities to  manipulation of shares on THE New York and Panama  stock exchanges  is now casting a shadow over the president of Panama’s Supreme Court.

The fact that Chief Justice José Ayú Prado will be the judge of guarantees in the Financial Pacific (FP) case that is linked to former President Ricardo Martinelli has raised concerns in many sectors of civil society, and legal circles  reports La Prensa.

Mayté Pellegrini, who also faces charges in the case, on Saturday, September 26  reiterated her complaint that Ayú Prado, when he was the attorney general, sought to prevent Martinelli from being linked to this case.
The complaint before the court relates to a file submitted by the Superintendency of Securities that detailed the possible commission of financial crimes through accounts that Martinelli had at Financial Pacific.

It highlighted irregularities in the use of insider information for the sale of shares of Petaquilla Minerals.

The facts came to light in 2012 when Pellegrini, a former FP employee, was jailed on embezzlement charges. In a statement to prosecutors, she said Martinelli had an account called High Spirit at the brokerage that was used to trade shares of the Canadian mining company that had operations in Panama.

She later retracted that statement, but in July 2013 stated that she did so at the urging of Ayú Prado, the then-attorney general who was appointed by Martinelli. She said that Ayú Prado had promised her she would be freed if she retracted her statement.

A letter has also surfaced from Martinelli to the attorney general explaining that, although he had an account at FP, it should not be investigated due to the political implications. At the end of 2012, after Pellegrini had retracted her statement, Martinelli appointed Ayú Prado to the Supreme Court, reports La Prensa.

Annette Planells, of the Independent Movement, said that Ayú Prado cannot be objective in this case.

“He must step down so that we can have confidence that both the investigation and trial are done correctly,” Planells stressed.

National Bar Association President José Alberto Álvarez said that such situations call for a judge to step away from cases.

“It would be prudent in this case due to the statements of Pellegrini,” he argued.

Former Comptroller Alvin Weeden said that if Ayú Prado doesn’t recuse himself, “the public will have serious doubts about this case.”

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