Major corruption suspects impede justice

Ford and Francolini

7,433Views 0Comments Posted 24/01/2019

In what La Prensa calls “a stealthy way" former Minister of Public Works (MOP)  Jaime Ford and former president of the Board of the State Savings Bank)  Riccardo Francolini - both linked multiple corruption scandals - registered

In Panama, a  long-standing quaint law protects people running for office from prosecution until 15 days after the election date, and there are dozens of cases on record from the sons of Ricardo Martinelli to ex-Vice-president Virzi, where the dodge has been used to delay or impede  justice

Neither Ford nor Francolini went to the Electoral Tribunal (TE) to keep reports of the number of signatures of support as pre-candidates. "They only applied as pre-candidates," a TE source told La Prensa.

Francolini and Ford reported to the TE that they opened bank accounts, a requirement that the Electoral Code requires to raise funds to support the search for signatures for their candidacies.

In a sworn statement presented to the ET, Francolini reported that he opened the account at the National Bank of Panama (BNP) with $50, which he described as a "personal contribution."

This account, according to Francolini's affidavit, did not receive any more funds. Meanwhile, Ford detailed in its affidavit that it opened an account in the BNP with $ 100.

Although they did not present support signatures, Ford and Francolini got off the hook obtained electoral criminal jurisdiction as pre-candidates.

Article 260 of the Electoral Code indicates that the electoral criminal jurisdiction begins to take effect since the TE authorizes the candidates to collect signatures of support. Specifically, it establishes that the electoral criminal jurisdiction will be obtained "for the candidates by the free [independent]application since the decision of the Electoral Tribunal that authorizes the beginning of the process of collection of signatures is executed and up to fifteen days after the execution of the proclamation in the election in which he participates. For pre-candidates who do not qualify as candidates, the jurisdiction ends fifteen days after the end of the period to register adherents. "

The period for the candidates for free application to submit signatures of support ended on January 5.

The electoral penal jurisdiction of Francolini and Ford expired on January 20, but both could acquire a new shell to avoid being investigated for corruption.

According to sources of Cambio Democrático (CD), they are likely to be nominated in positions that the group reserved for the general elections.

In those positions, for example, CD ran jailed former president Ricardo Martinelli for mayor of Panama, after he got more than 31,000 signatures of support to run as an independent candidate..

If CD applies to Ford and Francolini to a post of popular election, they would acquire a new electoral criminal jurisdiction, which would extend 15 days after the May 5 elections.

Ford and Francolini have been running for different positions in the inmates held by CD since 2015 and thereby obtained electoral criminal jurisdiction.

The Electoral Code obliges the Public Prosecutor's Office to request the TE authorization for the lifting of the electoral criminal jurisdiction of persons who need to investigate in some process.

The charges
Francolini is investigated by the Public Ministry (MP) in the cases of bribes paid by Odebrecht and by state contractors during the last government, known as the Blue Apple case

He is also investigated in the process for alleged anomalies in the multi-million dollar loan of the Savings Bank for the construction of the Amador convention center and in the investigation for alleged money laundering in transactions of the Jal Offshore account in the defunct Financial Pacific brokerage.

Ford is in the case of the bribes from  Odebrecht, and in the process of multo-millions overpricing in the widening of the Arraiján-La Chorrera highway.

Ford and Francolini are under a  country arrest court order, as part of the criminal proceedings.