The Epasa offices
The former president of Editora Panamá América, SA (Epasa) Ricardo Chanis has provided the Public Ministry with details of how Ricardo Martinelli and Henri Mizrachi bought the publishing house which publishes Panama America and La Critica although Martinelli controls a TV station and owning a daily newspaper is forbidden
The deal took place in 2010 while Martinelli was president and is now the focus of a criminal investigation involving the use of government funds known as “New Business.” Lawyer Chanis, made his statements to criminal prosecutors in February.
When it comes to freedom, each one looks out for himself says La Prensa and Ricardo Chanis has begun to distance himself from Martinelli.
The purchase of Epasa involved the disbursement of some $47 million, which included the cash payment of a debt of Epasa - of $12.5 million - to the General Bank, which Martinelli paid as a "shareholder loan,".
The purchase required a financial architecture in which, according to Chanis, Global Bank intervened directly, that by 2011, two Epasa shareholders - including Martinelli - controlled almost 25% of the shares of that bank, said Chanis. The corporate maneuvers submerged the new owners of Epasa under layers and layers of corporate entities, hiding their identities.
Accused of money laundering in the New Business case, Chanis has revealed details of the purchase and sale of Epasa, according to the Public Ministry, part of the payment was made with public funds contributed by state contractors.
Chanis began by saying that he knew that $34.1 million would be paid for Epasa, but that he did not know the origin of those funds.
He also said he knew that at that price it was necessary to add a debt that Epasa maintained with Banco General, of $ 12.5 million. In total, according to Chanis, $ 46.6 million were disbursed in the purchase-sale operation of the publishing house.
The lawyer claimed that he was contacted in November 2010 by Henri Mizrachi Kohen, whom, until then, he did not know personally. Mizrachi asked him for legal advice to buy Epasa. He accepted, although his role was not limited to that of an advisor.
Chanis provided the Public Ministry with emails and multiple documents on the purchase of the company, companies created for this purpose, as well as communications with the Global Bank, which approved a loan to complete the millionaire disbursement.
The lawyer stated that he was not expected to be a member of the Epasa board, but that Mizrachi asked him - shortly before the sale was completed, on December 21, 2010.
Although Mizrachi endorsed Chanis the presidency of Epasa –and the position of treasurer–, the businessman had no problem occupying the position of secretary of the board, together with Alberto Esquenazi, as director.
Chanis distances himself from both by ensuring that, although he served on that board, he did so as an "independent".
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