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Cablegate: Potential Scandal Brewing for Martinelli

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0765/01 2871806
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 141806Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3852
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 0008
RUEHGT/AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA 0014
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 0669
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 3874
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE 2067
RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR 1598
RUEHTG/AMEMBASSY TEGUCIGALPA 0464
RUEABND/DEA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

S E C R E T PANAMA 000765

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/05/2029
TAGS: PGOV PREL PM
SUBJECT: POTENTIAL SCANDAL BREWING FOR MARTINELLI

REF: A. A. PANAMA 756
B. B. PANAMA 639

Classified By: Ambassador Barbara J. Stephenson f...


S E C R E T PANAMA 000765

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/05/2029
TAGS: PGOV PREL PM
SUBJECT: POTENTIAL SCANDAL BREWING FOR MARTINELLI

REF: A. A. PANAMA 756
B. B. PANAMA 639

Classified By: Ambassador Barbara J. Stephenson for reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d)

-------
Summary
-------

1. (S//NF) Failed PRD candidate for president Balbina
Herrera publicly alleged September 24 that Secretary of State
for Security Jose Almengor had withheld evidence during the
past presidential campaign that incriminated President
Martinelli in the David Murcia scandal. That scandal
contributed to the defeat of Herrera, who was accused of
having accepted campaign contributions from Murcia. Herrera
claims that Almengor, who was the lead drug prosecutor at the
time, obtained a cassette that indicated Martinelli had
received an $800,000 campaign contribution from Murcia.
Almengor is now strongly rumored to be one of Martinelli's
picks for two slots on the Supreme Court (ref A). Herrera
claimed Almengor had accepted a pay off for his silence by
working for the government. Almengor denied the charges, but
Post had received information during the campaign from
Martinelli's campaign manager that indicated there might well
have been a connection. DEA also reports that Almengor came
across information that implicated Martinelli during his
investigation of Murcia, and that he suppressed the
information. End Summary.

--------------------
Balbina Strikes Back
--------------------

2. (U) According to Panama City daily La Estrella, on
September 24 former Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD)
presidential candidate Balbina Herrera publicly alleged that
Secretary of State for Security in the Ministry of the
Presidency, and former lead drug prosecutor, Jose Almengor
had covered up evidence that President Ricardo Martinelli
received an $800,000 campaign contribution from David Murcia,
convicted in Colombia and indicted in the U.S. for fraud and
money laundering. Murcia had publicly stated that Herrera and
PRD candidate for mayor of Panama City, Roberto Velazquez,
had each received $3 million campaign contributions from him.
This accusation damaged each of their campaigns, and they
both lost. Herrera now claims that Almengor, who was one of
the prosecutors working on the Murcia investigation in
Panama, obtained a cassette that showed that Murcia had
donated $800,000 to Martinelli's campaign. Almengor resigned
as a prosecutor during the investigation after the Attorney
General criticized him for allowing one of the suspects to
leave the country. Almengor began working for the Martinelli
government almost immediately after the election, and it has
been strongly rumored that Martinelli intends to appoint him
to the Supreme Court. Referring to these rumors, Herrera
said, "How well they have paid you, Jose Abel Almengor!"

-------------------
Half Hearted Denial
-------------------

3. (U) La Estrella quotes Almengor giving a very specific
denial: "In the investigation that took place, no request was
made to the Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court for any video
or filming. There are no (recordings) in the case file, nor
is there any evidence that there ever was." He noted he did
not lead the campaign finance portion of the investigation,
but rather the money laundering portion. He said he had not
decided if he would submit his name for consideration for
nomination to the Court.

------------
Twisted Tale
------------


4. (S//NF) Right before the scandal over Murcia's alleged
financing of the two PRD candidates broke in March,
Martinelli's campaign manager, and now Minister of the
Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu told Emboff that news was
about to break that Martinelli had received a large campaign
contribution from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht
that was carrying out several very large public
infrastructure projects in Panama (the Martinelli government
drew criticism recently when it awarded Odebrecht a no-bid
contract for a $60 million road construction project.)
Papadimitriu claimed that Odebrecht money had been
accidentally "commingled" by Martinelli's lawyer, Alma
Cortez, in accounts belonging to Murcia. Cortez was Murcia's
lawyer in Panama.

-------------------
Further Connections
-------------------

5. (S//NF) DEA reports that Panamanian Director of Tourism,
and one of the main strategists of Martinelli's campaign,
Salo Shamah has a brother, Alberto Shamah, who worked as
Murcia's pilot. According to a DEA source, Alberto Shamah
once flew Martinelli,s plane with Murcia on board. After the
Murcia scandal broke, all records of that flight disappeared.
The source further alleged that Almengor knew about the
flight while he was investigating Murcia, but suppressed the
information. Almengor himself told DEAFSN that Salo Shamah
had originally put him in touch with Papadimitriu, from which
began his relationship with the Martinelli government.

-------
Comment
-------

6. (S//NF) There is a lot of noise about the
Martinelli-Murcia-Almengor connection, which is putting the
story Papadimitriu told us last March in a fresh light. It
now seems likely that there was a Martinelli-Murcia
connection. Almengor's inexplicable rise to prominence is
causing the story to rise from the dead, and threatening
Martinelli's image as an anti-corruption crusader. This
potential damage to his moral authority is the most
significant aspect to the story. There is also, however, a
possibility that Martinelli could be blackmailed by others
who have information about this connection, which may be at
least part of what is fueling his desire for political
intelligence (ref B).
STEPHENSON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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