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New actors in Financial Pacific scandal

The Superintendency of Securities has widened its investigation.

Socios y viajeros: la conexión entre Martinelli y Correa

Spanish version

Temas:

The Superintendency of Securities has expanded its investigation into allegations of insider trading of shares of the Canadian mining stock Petaquilla Minerals by the brokerage house Financial Pacific.

The probe initially focused on an account linked to former President Ricardo Martinelli, which was allegedly used to buy shares of the company shortly before he approved the extraction of gold by Petaquilla Gold, one of its subsidiaries.

But according to information originally published by TVN news, another investment account, whose executives were Juan Luis Correa, Ricardo and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, also bought shares of Petaquilla.

Based on that documentation, the superintendency has asked the Supreme Court to investigate the matter, saying confidential information was used for economic advantage.

Ricardo Martinelli tenía como socios a su amigo Juan Luis Correa y a sus hijos Ricardo y Luis Enrique. Expandir Imagen
Ricardo Martinelli tenía como socios a su amigo Juan Luis Correa y a sus hijos Ricardo y Luis Enrique. LA PRENSA/Archivo

The organization was top secret. Only members and a tiny circle of power was aware of the moves. However, the group failed to anticipate that Financial Pacific would become embroiled in a $12 million fraud that prompted an inquiry that led to the discovery of he secret accounts.

The investigation by the superintendency opened a trunk full of secrets and financial conspiracies linked directly to the former president.

The authorities have determined that several accounts were used to buy and sell shares of Petaquilla, which were timed before crucial decisions about the company were made public.

The group included his sons, his brother-in-law, friends and partners.

The names of the accounts in question are: High Spirit Overseas, Distribuidora Comar, S.A., and Ricardo Martinelli. The last of which gave a pretty clear indication to investigators that the former president was involved.

Prosecutors have charged Aaron "Ronny" "Mizrachi, the brother-in-law of Martinelli, with money laundering in connection with his role as signatory of the High Spirit account. The superintendency has referred its administrative investigation into the activities of former President Martinelli to the Supreme Court. That investigation found that he may have used confidential information for economic benefit.

Shares of Petaquilla were purchased from the account with the name "Ricardo Martinelli" on Oct. 27, 2009. At the time, the shares were trading at 22 cents.

That price increased by three cents a share soon after Martinelli gave the green light for the company to start mining at its concession in Colón.

Accounts linked to Martinelli purchased another block of shares for 32 cents, then sold them three months later for 78 cents, realizing a profit of more than $100,000 on an investment of $71,000.

Two years later, according to the findings of the superintendency, $50,000 from the "Martinelli" account was transferred to Cane Clark LLP, a law firm in Las Vegas. That firm is currently under investigation for financial crimes by the United States Securities Commission (SEC).

The account “Distribuidora Comar” has been characterized by investigators as a partnership between Juan Luis Correa and Martinelli.

Francolini y Correa (detrás)  acompañaron a Martinelli a un viaje oficial a Haití, en febrero de 2014. Expandir Imagen
Francolini y Correa (detrás) acompañaron a Martinelli a un viaje oficial a Haití, en febrero de 2014. EFE/Archivo

Distribuidora Comar bought shares of Petaquilla, but they were done on a margin account and did not include any cash transactions. According to the superintendency, there were efforts made to hide the evidence of transactions involving the account from regulators.

Correa, in an interview Thursday, validated the existence of the account, but said he lost money.

He compared the investment to gambling in a casino, and added that he did not know the details of the investments. He said everything will become clear when the investigation is completed.

In addition to the financial irregularities, the superintendency has also made connections between the investors and directors of Petaquilla, validating their theory of insider trading.

It expressly mentions that Raúl Ferrer Arosemena was "designated" by Martinelli to serve on the board of directors of Petaquilla.

Just when Petaquilla Gold was laying the foundations for a new relationship with the government to allow its mining operation to start, the board of directors of Petaquilla Minerals changed radically. That's when Arosemena was named to the board, in November 2009. That appointment came a month after Ferrer was named by the government to the Panama Pacifico board. Additionally, he was director of Genesis and Associates, an advertising and communication company that handled millions of dollars advertising accounts for state entities.

Another connection between the company and its secretive investors was the fact that Correa's cousin, Rodrigo Esquivel, was president of Petaquilla.

This investigation, which began in 2014, was the second time Financial Pacific came under scrutiny, and regulators say that much more evidence may have been destroyed when their first investigation, which began in 2012, was blocked.

At that time, the directors of Financial Pacific, Ivan Clare and West Valdés, successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to block attempts by the superintendency to investigate the firm. The judge who made that decision was Alejandro Moncada Luna, a Martinelli appointee who is currently serving a five-year sentence for unjustified enrichments and fraud.

Los nuevos actores en el escándalo Financial Pacific Expandir Imagen
Los nuevos actores en el escándalo Financial Pacific

Socios y viajeros: la conexión entre Martinelli y Correa

Las comitivas de los viajes oficiales del entonces presidente Ricardo Martinelli siempre fueron una incógnita. Además de la lista oficial de sus acompañantes, a Martinelli le gustaba estar con personas de su confianza. Por ejemplo, en su visita a Haití, en febrero del año pasado, el empresario incluyó, de forma secreta, a sus amigos y socios Riccardo Francolini y Juan Luis Correa.

Ambos fueron recibidos por el Estado de Haití con bombos y platillos, ya que llegaban de la mano del mandatario invitado. Año y medio después, la Superintendencia del Mercado de Valores ha dado a conocer que tanto Martinelli como sus dos compinches están vinculados al escándalo de Financial Pacific (FP).

Una de las empresas mencionadas por la institución es Distribuidora Comar, S.A. creada en 2006 y hasta hace poco tenía en su junta directiva a Correa, a Martinelli y sus hijos Luis Enrique y Ricardo Martinelli Linares. Hace cuatro meses, específicamente en abril pasado, los Martinelli presentaron la renuncia a sus cargos como directores, secretarios y tesoreros.

La operación se llevó a cabo apenas días después de que la Contraloría General de la República, a cargo de Federico Humbert, contratara a la empresa, por $393, para la compra de 30 tarjetas telefónicas de prepago. La súbita renuncia de los Martinelli, empero, no fue el final de las relaciones comerciales con Correa.

Desde 2007, el trío conforma la directiva de Interdot Communications, una sociedad que en su registro se perfiló para inversiones, compras, ventas y todo negocio lícito permitido.

Pero hay más. Laura Correa de Díaz, su hermana, fue nombrada en la Presidencia de la República y su esposo, Javier Díaz, fue primero director médico de la Caja de Seguro Social y luego ministro de Salud en la era Martinelli.

Con información de Luis Burón-Barahona

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