Panama’s $78.3 million barrel of rotten apples

Ex president's son are facing extradition from the U.S

2,782Views 0Comments Posted 18/11/2019

A two-year investigation by the Sixth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor in the Blue Apple case  uncovered a corruption scheme that  included a barrel of rotten apples including private sector contractors, lawyers, bankers and former state ministers who used the banking system to launder money from bribes.

The investigation concludes that the property damage caused to the State would reach $ 78.3 million.

The prosecution which has recovered $33 million requested that 52 of the 58 persons charged be brought to trial.

The process was opened in September 2017, after a “basket” company allegedly, was detected allegedly created in order to receive bribes paid by state contractors in exchange for expediting payments for projects.

Among those charged are the brothers Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares , sons of the former president.

After the Odebrecht case, Blue Apple is perhaps the largest corruption investigation at the local level in recent years reports La Prensa.

Collaboration agreements reached by the defendants revealed the wide participation of officials, bank employees, and those close to the administration of former President  Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) to allegedly appropriate the money of the State.

One of the strongest statements was given by Juan Alexis Rodríguez, from Constructora Rodsa SA, who revealed that the former contract administrator of the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), Jorge Churro Ruiz, presented a verbal proposal to expedite procedures in the MOP: payment orders, plans, and others. In return, according to Rodríguez, he had to pay between 6% and 8% of the contract amount. Disbursements would be made in different payments between six and eight months. 

In his collaboration agreement, Juan Alexis Rodríguez provided copies of checks to the prosecution for the amount of $280 517, $640 973, and $1.9 million, dated February 2014 in favor of the Isthmus Energy Corporation, for contracts that Rodsa had won with the MOP.

The payments related to infrastructure works that were to be carried out in Veraguas and Coclé. He revealed that these payments were also required as "political assistance and to expedite the procedures of the projects".

He said  that the money was requested by the MOP minister of the time, Jaime Ford, who replaced Federico Suárez when he resigned from the post. He said Ford quoted him in his office and asked for payments. On another occasion he told him the amounts to be delivered.

Rodríguezalso  revealed the names of other protagonists of the plot: Joaquín Rodríguez Salcedo, former manager of Factor Global Inc , who, managed the invoices and payments. And Federico Barrios Alaín, legal representative, president, treasurer and signatory of several accounts of the Blue Apple company.

According to Ruiz, Barrios Alaín would deliver invoices that did not correspond to services related to his company, but would be used to justify amounts of money turned in favor of the company, which would charge 3.75% of the amount of payment received.

This scheme would have been repeated in the case of Carlos Cerda Araya, of Constructora Meco, who agreed to have authorized the delivery of money also at the request of Churro Ruiz, through financial operations and legal structures.

He said that he delivered 5% of the value of the contracts for the construction of multiple highways and bridges

He revealed that he paid $9.4 million from the mathematical formula of 5%.

On the other hand, Alberto Jurado Rosales, of the construction company Bagatrac S. A , Confirmed the same mechanism: he had to deliver part of the funds allocated to contracts through Blue Apple.

Others seeking to make a deal revealed details of dozens of similar corrupt transaction amounting to scores of millions of dollars

When the prosecution took an investigative statement from Joaquín Rodríguez Salcedo, of Global Factor, he said “having marketed a method of Federico Barrios”, through which with the sale of invoices, contractors “could download the expense, via tax shield, and send funds to various officials, not just Jorge Ruíz.

In an investigative statement, dated January 8, 2018, Barrios Alaín indicated that the Blue Apple structure began in 2011, when it was invited to participate in a business by Joaquín Rodríguez Salcedo, which consisted in the creation of a group of companies that would invoice state contractors for the alleged supply of materials, equipment rental, consulting and others. Rodriguez said he would have informed him that he should open a bank account in the name of one of those companies, but Blue Apple was chosen. There, then, they would receive all payments from contractors.

Former Ministers
Joaquín Rodríguez Salcedo linked the former Minister of Public Works Federico Suárez with the scheme, noting that when Churro Ruiz ceased to be director of MOP contracts, the then minister contacted him and informed him that the procedures that were being done with the contractors, should continue

He added that the latter came to request international transfers to Malena Investment; related to the former Minister of the Presidency Demetrio Papadimitriou . As well as Dejaf Investment, Solution for Business, Rock Capital, which was related to Suárez.

Jaime Ford, former Minister of Housing, and former Minister of Public Works, is linked to the process following a statement given by Julian Paris