Man who unwittingly helped elect Panama City mayor heads for trial in US

120Views 0Comments Posted 18/10/2009

BOGOTA. David Murcia, the man whose allegations of pay offs to PRD politicians may have handed the mayoralty of Panama city to bumbling Bosco Vallarino,  will be extradited to the United States to face charges of money laundering.
He has also been accused of running pyramid schemes in Panama and Columbia,and while in Panama flaunted his illegal wealth with a string of expensive cars and a yacht.
While in jail in Columbia he claimed that he had close connections with the then ruling party the PRD (Revolutionary Democratic Party) and had contributed $3 million to the campaign of Bobby Velasquez, the mayoralty candidate who had a comfortable lead in the polls. He also claimed to have given $3 million to Balbina Herrera’s presidential campaign.
Polls showed that he was believed by a large number of voters and many who had planned to vote for Velasquez, who, as the former head of the country’s emergency response unit, had strong managerial qualities.
Bosco Vallarino, who has floundered from one problem to another since taking office, was elected even though it turned out that he held an American passport.
Herrera also lost, and since then her political star has plummeted, and this week she withdrew her candidature for the leadership of a party in disarray
Murcia’s “financial advisor”in Panama, Ernesto Chong, was accused by Murcia of stealing $8 million. And hit the headlines when he traveled to Miami while under house arrest,
"The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court issued a favorable opinion of extradition with respect to David Murcia Guzmán …. so that he can be tried for conspiracy to commit the crime of laundering money," the Colombian court said in a statement.
U.S. authorities say Murcia and his partners moved million dollars of profits from drug trafficking to more than 18 bank accounts in that country. Murcia is being held in a prison in Colombia after his capture and deportation from Panama in November 2008. His wife, Joanne Ivette Leon, was released in mid-March in Uruguay, where she was arrested, after prosecutors stopped extradition proceedings.
Murcia, through his attorney, said earlier this year that he preferred being extradited to the United States because he was not satisfied that he could receive a fair hearing in the Colombian courts.
Others believe he feared for his life in the Colombian prison system In the U.S. he could receive prison sentences of more than20 years.
He also faces charges related to his activities in Panama.

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