"Take him away!"
There are a couple of things they really know how to do well in Panama, like throwing a good party and putting up a great show. And we hope, dear readers, that you enjoyed the show over the last couple of days as much as we did. Because, what a show it was!
WE HAVE A DEAL, WE HAVE NO DEAL
First, as we reported here earlier, there was a plea deal between corrupt sleazeball Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna and the Assembly prosecutor in the case brought against him for corruption.
But then, over the weekend it turned out that Moncada Luna was going to bail out of the deal. He had been pressured, he said. He wanted more guarantees. Monday, the news became official: The deal was null and void.
Tuesday, the trial against him in the National Assembly was supposed to start. But Moncada Luna didn't show up. He said he was sick. His lawyer presented a certificate from a doctor that his client couldn't attend the proceedings. Then it turned out that that doctor had not even seen Moncada Luna on the day she issued that certificate.
The corrupt magistrate was then immediately brought to a hospital where doctors from forensics examined him. Surprise, surprise: There was nothing wrong with him.
Rumor, meanwhile, had it that Moncada Luna was trying to gain time and steer for a full trial that would have to be ratified by the entire Assembly. He would then have time to buy enough votes to remain a free man.
So today the trial finally started. We first heard that now Moncada Luna had changed his mind again, now more than a bit willing to adhere to the plea deal. His lawyer, Ramiro Jarvis, asked for leniency from the court in sentencing. He explained how his client had always served his country. How he had no criminal past. How he was no danger to anyone. How they had no choice than to accept the plea deal. How house arrest would be better for the nation as a whole. And so on.
Then the lawyers for the various shell companies used to launder the loot got their say too. They asked for the bank accounts of these anonymous companies to be unfrozen. After all, the name of the accused was not on these accounts or the corporations.
SPEECH MAKING AND BOMB THREATS
The judges then took a break to decide if they'd accept the plea deal. They did, and judges Ana Matilde Gomez and Zulay Rodriguez (yes, the xenophobe) both got to explain their vote. Gomez kept it short and to the point, and Zulay Rodriguez went into political speech making and acting as if she was the president of the court.
In between, we received word that the bomb threat at the school where the kid of the real president of that court, Kathleen Levy, goes to school, was false and that no explosives had been found.
After a couple of hours of more deliberations, the judges returned to the courtroom - the Salon Azul of the National Assembly, for the sentencing part of the event.
And they gave Moncada Luna the whole thing. The maximum they could. Five years in jail, and no house arrest or anything like that. And nada de unfreezing bank accounts: That, they ruled, was beyond their competence and regular legal authorities would have to decide on that.
The convict himself was sitting there with his head down and probably couldn't believe it. This is, after all, a first in Panama: A corrupt magistrate goes to jail. Never happened before. Not for a lack of corrupt magistrates, but because they usually buy their way out of trouble and for a long time a silent agreement existed between the legislature and the Supreme Court" You don't investigate us and we don't investigate you.
REUNITED WITH NORIEGA
"Go directly to jail." Moncada Luna was immediately transferred to the el Renacer prison near Gamboa where, we had learned, a cell had already been prepared for him since yesterday.
In that same prison, former dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega is serving his time for murders and stuff like that.
Alejandro Moncada Luna used to work for Noriega. He was his special prosecutor, charged with shutting down unwelcome press by using the myriad of dictatorship gag laws. They will now have plenty of time - five years or until Noriega dies, whichever comes first - to dwell on memories of the good old days when one could get away with everything and make a profit.
Next on the Panama corruption circus program, the extradition of Ricardo Martinelli?