Defense contracts result in criminal probes

The cases are focused on contracts with the Italian consortium Finmeccanica.


Three criminal investigations have been opened into the $250 million contract for security equipment signed between the former government and Italian defense contractor Finmeccanica.

Fourth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Ruth Morcillo is investigating the contract to purchase six helicopters from AgustaWestland at a cost of about $100 million, while Sixth Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Aurelio Vásquez is investigating the purchase of a digital mapping system from Telespazio for about $25 million contract. The final investigation is being carried out by Third Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Zuleyka Moore for the acquisition of 19 radars for $125 million from Selex. All those companies are subsidiaries of Finmeccanica.

In the last case, former security officials Alejandro Garuz and José Raúl Mulino have been charged with corruption.

The Public Ministry reported yesterday that it has requested documents from the Ministry of Public Security related to the acquisition of the helicopters. They were delivered in 2013 and are currently being used by the Aeronaval service. While questions have been raised about their suitability for use in Panama, their purchase was perhaps the least controversial part of the contract.

In the case of the digital map, the former government authorized payments of $9 million, but the company has so far not delivered the product. The contract has been suspended by the Supreme Court due to alleged irregularities. 

The contract to purchase the radars has also been suspended. In that case, there are questions being raised about whether they are able to detect boats typically used by drug traffickers, which was the justification for buying them.



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