Five former ministers of the government of Ricardo MARTINELLI (2009-2014) are among 49 facing trial for alleged embezzlement, as part of the case of the irregular sale of grain through the defunct National Aid Program (PAN), that would have caused property damage of $12.3 million.
The decision reaches former ministers Frank De Lima (Economy and Finance), Guillermo Ferrufino (Social Development), Jaime Ford (Public Works), Roberto Milton Cohen Henríquez (Presidency), and Lucy Molinar (Education).
The decision was adopted on September 2 by Judge Agueda Rentería, First Liquidator of Criminal Cases, who also called another 44 people to trial, including Adolfo Chichi De Obarrio, Martinelli's former private secretary.
De Obarrio has been out of the country since December 25, 2014, and there are demands against him for processes that are being carried out in various judicial spheres.
Among those called to trial also include the merchant Mario Martinelli Berrocal brother of the former and Abraham Williams, former PAN executive assistant, as well as Adrián José De La Guardia, Aldo Mangravita, Pablo Ruiz Obregón, Roberto Brin, Tomás Escalona and Massiel Heurtematte.
The investigation began in August 2014, when the then deputy of the Panameñista Party, José Luis Varela, revealed in a television interview the alleged existence of cost overruns in rice purchases made by the PAN
According to Varela's statement, the PAN purchased a quintal of rice for $80, when in the local market it cost $25. An audit report prepared by the Comptroller General, in 2015, revealed that higher prices were paid than those that the Agricultural Marketing Institute had and that the final destination of the grains was unknown, among other aspects.
Another of the elements that Judge Rentería took into account when drafting her decision was the statement by Rafael Guardia Jaén, former director of the PAN, who confessed that he received direct instructions from Adolfo de Obarrio on who to assign the contracts for the supply of grains.
Guardia Jaén agreed to collaboration and penalty agreement.
He said, for example, that the 10% profit he obtained from managing the contracts was shared with Abraham Williams and that for this they created the company Lora, SA.
The judge also relied on the statement of the protected witness identified as Milagros, who gave details of how the contracts were handled.