Q24N (EFE) The preliminary hearing of the Odebrecht bribery case in Panama, considered the largest corruption plot in the country’s history, began on Monday with 83 defendants, including two former presidents of the Republic, after being suspended last month. of July.
“To start this session, at 10:30 am today (September 12, 2022), we proceed to identify ourselves” the parties, said the judge in charge of the hearing, Baloísa Marquínez.
At the hearing, which will last until September 30, the judge will hear the arguments of the parties to decide, within a period of 30 business days after the conclusion, on the call to trial.
The Prosecutor’s Office will ask to prosecute the natural persons and one legal entity for the crime of money laundering and corruption of public servants according to information from the Judicial Branch.
Among those accused are former presidents Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019), who were not present, and more than half a dozen senior former officials.
“Again, we are here in the act of preliminary hearing, in an alternate hearing. The Public Ministry (Prosecutor’s Office) has to reiterate the fiscal hearing, where it is going to request a call to trial for 50 people,” said prosecutor Ruth Morcillo, prior to the start of the hearing.
MARTINELLI BROTHERS REFUSE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE HEARING
During the hearing, the sons of former President Martinelli, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, – sentenced for this same case in the United States – were present digitally and waived to appear in person, a request made by a representative of the United States department of justice.
“The court admits their request, we respect their decision and they can withdraw if they wish,” said Judge Marquínez.
The defense of former president Martinelli reminded the court that there is a challenge against the judge for alleged incompetence, which, according to Marquínez’s response at the time, was rejected for lack of merit.
The hearing is being held on an “alternate date”, after it was suspended and rescheduled on July 18 due to the absence of some defense attorneys.
In this case, provisional dismissal has already been issued for 21 people and definitive for 8.
The investigation into the Odebrecht case in Panama was opened in 2015, was archived, then reopened in 2017 and ended in October 2018 with about 80 defendants.
The file consists of 2,755 volumes with more than 1.1 million pages, the Judicial Branch specified.
The case was reopened after Odebrecht confessed in the United States that it had paid millions in bribes in a dozen countries, for which she was fined US$2.6 billion.
According to the confessions of the company, in Panama, more than US$55 million dollars were paid in bribes to officials and individuals, including the Martinelli brothers.
Martinelli’s children are serving jail in the US after pleading guilty there to participating “in bribe payments made by and under the direction of Odebrecht to a then-high-ranking official of the Government of Panama, who was a close relative of the defendants”, for a total of US$28 million dollars.
Luis Enrique’s lawyer, James Mac Govern, declared that the brothers had acted “by orders of the father”.
In July 2017, Odebrecht signed an agreement with the Panamanian Prosecutor’s Office to pay a fine of US$220 million dollars to the State in 12 years, which is not being complied with.