The phone tapping scandal surrounding Procurador de la Administración Oscar Ceville is still heating up and yet we have another affair involving tapping phones and espionage: El Panama America reports that the US government tried to recoup espionage equipment it had previously donated to the intelligence service from the Panamanians.
The paper quotes an unnamed high-up government official as saying that the equipment was being put to bad use. The equipment was used to gather information about ongoing investigations and prosecutions of drug traffickers.
President Martinelli's cousin, treasurer of his political party and campaign finance manager Ramón Martinelli, is currently in prison in Mexico on charges of money laundering, together with other associates of the Panamanian president.
Costa Rican paper El País earlier reported that former security chief of the president, José Abel Almengor, removed incriminating evidence from case files tying Martinelli to drug money in the public ministry when he was a drug prosecutor. Almengor is now a Supreme Court magistrate.
According to El Panama America, the attempt to retake the equipment was made while Martinelli was at the United Nations in New York, in 2009. The source insisted that the equipment was further used for "political espionage".
The affair indicates that the illegal use of the equipment is on orders from high-up in Panama's government. After all, if this was just a case of a rogue employee selling data or anything like that, the pressure would have been to remove the bad apple. The attempt to retake the equipment however proves that the US government distrusts the entire Martinelli administration in their use of it.
And Martinelli? He responded in his classic "just blatantly lie in their face" way that has become the hallmark of his presidency, denying that the government has any equipment that can be used to tap phones. Needless to say that nobody believes him.