The New Business case over the purchase of Editora Panamá América SA ( Epasa) with alleged public funds resumed on Monday, July 4, five months after the Special Prosecutor against Organized Crime began the presentation of arguments to call 16 people to trial.
The hearing was suspended on January 27 when the defense of former president Ricardo Martinelli, one of the accused, presented documents from the Electoral Court stating that he had criminal electoral jurisdiction.
This caused the judge to, Baloisa Marquínez, to separate Martinelli's case from the rest of those investigated until the issue was resolved.
The procedural rupture also reached the brothers Davi d and Daniel Ochy , who were not notified of the hearing in time.
Gladys Quintero and Alfonso Núñez, lawyers for some of the defendants, asked Judge Marquínez about her decision to continue with the preliminary hearing, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has yet to resolve the appeal to a protection of guarantees that could declare the nullity of everything advanced in the case. The judge replied that these incidents will be resolved at the end of the process, so the hearing continues.
The scheme said the special prosecutor against organized crime, Uris Vargas, the purchase of Epasa was managed through an intricate network of corporations that received money from companies; which, in turn, received contracts for infrastructure works in the government Part of those funds went to a basket company: New Business.
Vargas said that during the investigation the testimony of several collaborators was obtained. One of them narrated that during a meeting, a high-ranking official from the Presidency was the one who coordinated the collection of bribes and advances, through the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), money that was then diverted to the New Business society.
The collaborator added that the senior official pressured the businessmen to collaborate with the delivery of funds for the acquisition of Epasa .
He said that these companies included: Transcaribe Trading (TCT), Excavaciones del Istmo, Financial Pacific, Constructora Corcione, Condote Panamá y Asociados, among others.
He said that Gonzalo Gómez Wong , the last beneficiary of Excavaciones del Istmo, gave a contribution of $2 million and that for this he acquired a factoring loan that was canceled through a contract with the State for $27 million to carry out works in Panama West.
The prosecutor also named David Cohen and Salomón Btesh , businessmen who contribued $3 million. These, he said, appear in companies that received contracts from the Ministry of Public Works (MOP) and the National Institute of Professional Training and Training for Human Development.
A statement was given by Gabriel Btesh , who confessed to having received funds from David Ochy, one of the owners of the TCT company, to manage the purchase of the media conglomerate. He even said that those instructions were given to him in writing.
He also explained that the contributions made by TCT came from money that was given through the contract for the design and construction of the Arraiján-La Chorrera highway. He recalled that an investigation carried out by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office of the Public Ministry shows that in this project there was a patrimonial injury of $7.9 million.
Another of the companies allegedly linked to the scheme was MDM Latin Corp, linked to Marcos Acrich .
The prosecutor explained that the company, without having a clear business relationship with New Business, made several deposits.
According to prosecutor Vargas, businessmen linked to companies that carried out construction works for the Social Security Fund were also pressured to hand over money.
This, was reflected in the statements of Eugenio Del Barrio , from the company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC).