The net is closing in fast on president Ricardo Martinelli and various ministers, among which the current mayor of Panama City Roxana Mendez, now that the Italian prosecutors are naming them as recipients of monetary bribes and other goodies in a rapidly expanding corruption scandal that covers the globe.
According to La Prensa, former Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Franco Frattini has testified that Valter Lavitola and Martinelli were very close and trusted each other absolutely. "It wasn't just friendship, because Lavitola had less philanthropic interests in Panama as well", Frattini said.
The subject of the current investigations is a contract to construct four new prisons for $176 million. According to the Italian public ministry and Frattini, Martinelli, Mendez and others received money in exchange for signing that contract.
Martinelli and Mendez were paid with suitcases full of cash, the Italian prosecutors allege. The total sum promised was $20 million. On top of that, they would get an $8 million Agusta helicopter with Hermés interior.
Needless to say that all these bribes and luxury items would be paid out of the contractually agreed sum for the new prisons, paid for by Panamanian tax payers.
Martinelli also tried to get Lavitola appointed as a Panamanian consul, while Lavitola himself intended to have himself made consul of Italy in Panama, the Italians say. Those attempts all failed.
Martinelli is a dual Panamanian and Italian citizen, and there is little to stop the Italians from formally indicting him and his accomplices.
Martinelli has canceled a trip to Mexico because of the scandal, probably worried about the possibility of arrest.
Martinelli is independently wealthy, doesn't really need more millions and was elected on an anti-corruption platform. This whole case shows his sociopathic and kleptocratic tendencies more than anything else.