Judicial investigation in Costa Rica leads to inquiries in Panama

(Prensa Latina) Investigation led by Costa Rican justice against Building Company Meco SA, could also be related to Panama, whose authorities look into alleged company´s financial crimes, local press reported here today.

Panama´s Financial Affairs Unit (FAU) belonging to the President´s Ministry, is looking for possible funds being transferred from San José, Costa Rica, to Panama city and vice versa, as well as dates, recipients and the banks used in the transactions, the Estrella de Panama newspaper published.

After the operation and investigations in the neighboring country, arresting businessman Carlos Cerdas, among others, there is evidence that Panamanian officials allegedly accepted bribes to raise the cost of public works.

Meco, with headquarters in Costa Rica and presence in many Central American countries, carried out projects in this country during the last decade and was involved in different lawsuits resulting in scandals reported by media from the two countries.

Through international judicial assistance, Costa Rica requested information about the company´s operations in Panama, SA´s, Cerda or third parties´ estate properties, and information about alleged crime reports made against the company in Panamanian territory, the newspaper affirmed.

In March, 2018, Cerda signed an agreement for ¨efficient collaboration¨ with the Sixth Anticorruption Attorney´s office, also known as ¨privileged accusation¨, by which he acknowledged that his company had handed illegal money to ¨a Panamanian public official¨, according to the Source.

The Attorney´s office is looking into the list of gift sums paid by the building company since beginning of 2018 and at same time they analyze if the irregular and/or exaggerated transfer of funds between the two countries can be validated judicially, so as to if it is the case to open an international file with other consequences, they said.

Misappropriation of funds can qualify as an international crime, if Cerda´s and his associates´ unjustified wealth grow is confirmed, in coincidence to contracts for overrated works in neighbor territory.

After the scandal of Brazilian transnational Odebrecht, the Costa Rican company became the most important contractor of infrastructure works in Panama, after participating in the consortium that carried out the widening of the inter-oceanic canal.

According to statistics from the Public Works Ministry and the Panama Buys office, the company got contracts for a thousand 200 million dollars during ex-Ceo, Ricardo Martinelli´s management (2009- 2014), and another thousand 34 millions during Juan Carlos Varela´s government (2014-2019).

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