Moncada works himself in deeper and deeper

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"I don't own any bank accounts"

IF YOU ARE a corrupt public official or judge or anything, you know that the bribes and kickbacks and skimmed funds that are coming your way need to be laundered. This is beginners stuff. Hide the origin of your ill-gotten gains before spending the money on anything. And then, if you spend it, don't go overboard showing off more assets than your legal income could possibly justify.

Yet, despite a long, long career in corruption and sleaze, Alejandro Moncada Luna doesn't understand this. Maybe he thought that he still could act with the impunity that was standard fare in the days when he was in charge of closing the opposition press down for the military dictatorship. Or when he was doing Gilberto Boutín's dirty work as head of the PTJ, meanwhile taking good care of his personal business interests as well, before being fired for unethical conduct.

Or maybe he thought that being magistrate and president of the Supreme Court was just an extension of his private law practice, taking up his old habit of trying to shut down media that took issue with the criminal practices of his clients.

Whichever it is, Moncada was recently caught paying for apartments with way more money than he could explain for, and after tolerating his activities for a couple of decades the Panamanians have now decided that it is enough.


Criminal trials against Supreme Court magistrates are conducted by the National Assembly in our country, and last Monday, after having been on the run for a couple of days, Moncada Luna and his lawyer appeared before the Assembly to be formally charged.

The prosecutor in the case is none other than legislator Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, and that has brought us into a situation where a notoriously corrupt magistrate is being prosecuted by someone who is wanted in the United States on terrorism charges.

Among the appointed judges we find Ana Matilde Gomez and Zulay Rodriguez. Both have major axes to grind with Mr. Moncada. Gomez was kicked out of her job as the country's Attorney General by Moncada's court on orders of then president Martinelli, and Rodriguez lost her job at the Supreme Court because of the plotting and scheming that came with the ploy that toppled Gomez.


Needless to say that, despite the many objections and delaying tactics of Moncada's lawyer Sidney Sitton (who does bulk contract work now to defend Martinelli's human residue in Panama's public life), the judges did not need much time to decide that Moncada is no longer a Supreme Court magistrate and is placed under house arrest while the prosecution proceeds with its investigations into illegal enrichment and money laundering.

So, one would think, time for the suspect to keep his perfectly coiffed head down (Moncada always has the plasticky hairdo of aged TV hosts and Panamanians call him Mr. Blower) and try not to make things worse.

But no.

On his way out after proceedings had terminated, he told the media that he had his legal clients pay him in cash, that he didn't have any bank accounts in his name and that all his assets were in the name of his wife.

And that, says La Prensa, is a confession to yet more crimes. First of all he can't work as a lawyer while being a magistrate. Second of all he can't hide assets like that while receiving $7,500 a month as a Supreme Court judge.

If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of about 5 years in prison, RPC radio said.

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