The Cabinet Council has instructed the Ministry of the Presidency to submit a claim before the Supreme Court to void the contracts signed in 2010 between Panama and the companies Selex, Agusta and Telespazio, all subsidiaries of the Italian defense contractor Finmeccanica, for the purchase of 19 radars, six helicopters and a digital map for $250 million.
Through a resolution published in the Government Gazette yesterday, the council authorized Minister of the Presidency Álvaro Alemán to work with Attorney General Kenia Porcell on the claim, which is based on the fact that the contracts allegedly involved kickbacks worth millions of dollars to members of the previous administration, headed by Ricardo Martinelli.
The contracts have been the focus of several corruption trials in Italy. In those proceedings, Italian businessman Valter Lavítola is alleged to have acted as an intermediary for Finmeccanica in negotiating with the Martinelli administration.
The resolution also details that some of the goods described in the contracts still have not been supplied, and that the radars have failed to operate as advertised. Specifically, they do not have the capacity to detect speedboats used by drug trafficker, which is the primary reason they were purchased.
Selex, the company that provided the radars, has admitted to the problems and suggested that Panama replace them with drones, a proposal Panama has rejected.