EspañolA Panamanian prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to launch a massive corruption probe against the 71 congressmen who served in the National Assembly between 2010 and 2014 for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from a welfare program, local daily La Estrella reported on Monday, March 30.
The congressmen reportedly purchased bags of food via the National Help Program (PAN) worth US$62.3 million. According to former PAN Director Rafael Guardia Jaén, they always made purchases from the same suppliers without a transparent decision-making process.
Prosecutors suspect that the elected officials may have received bribes to prefer certain suppliers and award them contracts at inflated prices.
Between January to April, amid the campaign for the 2014 presidential election, congressmen reportedly bought 2,231,810 bags of food worth $25 each — a total of almost $56 million. .
Guardia Jaén — who is now serving a prison sentence for corruption — said that former President Ricardo Martinelli’s secretary, Adolfo de Obarrio, would instruct him when to make purchases and from whom to buy. “The congressmen suggested the suppliers,” said Jaén, “I was just following orders.”
So far, authorities have indicted 32 people involved in managing the welfare program, including Martinelli’s private secretary; the former president’s brother, Mario Martinelli; and former Education Minister Lucy Molinar.
Last week, in a separate investigation, anti-corruption Prosecutor Vika Broce asked judicial authorities to file a PAN-related case against two cabinet members during Martinelli’s administration.
Martinelli is currently on the run, and is set to lose his immunity from prosecution, over the PAN scandal. He was last seen in Italy, where he also faces extortion charges for a separate case.