ITALIAN defense contractor Finmeccanica paid a shell corporation in Panama a 10 percent commission on a $250 million contract it had with the government of Ricardo Martinelli.
According to documents obtained by TVN news, the payments were made to Agafia Corporation, which has been linked to jailed italian fixer Valter Lavítola reports La Prensa.
Lavitola has been accused by Italian prosecutors of arranging bribes on behalf of Panama officials in exchange for lucrative contracts.
The beneficiaries of these payments were Martinelli and his associates, according to prosecutors.
Agafia had "consultancy agreements" with Finmeccanica subsidiaries that resulted in payments of $25 million.
Agafia, a company created in June 2010, had no experience in the sale of security equipment. Internal auditors of the defense consortium questioned the payments, but that was not enough to stop them.
According to documents reported by TVN, the first payment was made in June 2011.
Italian prosecutors have a recording of Lavitola giving instructions with precise amounts on how to prepare the invoices for the commissions.
For Italian prosecutors, this is irrefutable proof that Lavitola was in control of Agafia. In addition to corruption allegations, this revelation also had tax implications, since if any of the shareholders of Agafia were Italian, internal policies of Finmeccanica required them to pay a 30 percent tax.
Despite the existence of the invoices, Panama’s former Security Minister José Mulino said last week that the contracts he negotiated with Finmeccanica "do not establish any payment of commission to anyone."