Spanish version

EDUCATION

UP land deals scrutinized

The school has refused to release details of its land deals.

Spanish version

Temas:

University of Panama (UP) Rector Gustavo García de Paredes has engaged in real estate deals with land owned by the university that, according to experts, have been "highly disadvantageous" to the school.

During his 19 years as head of the school, García de Paredes has leased and sold university properties that were originally intended for expansion and to strengthen its assets.

Some 160 hectares of land have been leased or sold in questionable transactions, which include the absence of appraisals. It includes land a short distance from Tocumen International Airport and land near beach areas on the Pacific coast that were meant for the development of the faculty of agricultural sciences.

García de Paredes has declined to comment on the allegations.

The properties include those donated by private individuals and others acquired in the 1940s during the administration of Octavio Méndez Pereira, the school's co-founder and first rector.

The university has refused to provide a complete audit of the properties it owns or details about the lease agreements and sales of these properties.

Rector ignoró la ley de Transparencia Expandir Imagen
Rector ignoró la ley de Transparencia Mary Triny Zea

Due to the school's lack of cooperation, La Prensa has spent several months collecting information about these property transactions from other sources. The newspaper began its investigation following a complaint filed against the García de Paredes for offences against public administration.

That complaint contained a list of some 50 properties. Several of these properties are no longer owned by the university because they have been sold. In other cases they have been leased at a rate that is considered to be below market value.

En 42.1 hectáreas en Tocumen, a un costado del aeropuerto, se construyó un centro logístico (Parque Sur)  un negocio millonario por el que la UP pactó centavos de alquiler. Expandir Imagen
En 42.1 hectáreas en Tocumen, a un costado del aeropuerto, se construyó un centro logístico (Parque Sur) un negocio millonario por el que la UP pactó centavos de alquiler. LA PRENSA/Alexander Arosemena

There are cases, for example, where expensive land located near the Tocumen International Airport has been leased for a nominal amount. this land is located in the area of development of the new air terminal, whose value is increasing every year.

In addition, the companies holding these leases have preference to buy the leased areas if the UP eventually decides to sell them.

The leases are for 20 years and many of them include clauses that mean that they can ben renewed automatically.

In the opinion of the experts, it is very unusual to include an automatic renewal in a real estate lease due to changing conditions.

En tres lotes -de 20.4 hectáreas- en Tocumen, arrendados por la UP, se construye el lujoso Global Business Terminal, y una plaza comercial. Expandir Imagen
En tres lotes -de 20.4 hectáreas- en Tocumen, arrendados por la UP, se construye el lujoso Global Business Terminal, y una plaza comercial. LA PRENSA/Alexander Arosemena

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