The Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office sent a judicial assistance request in the last hours to Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico to request the apprehension of a helicopter in the name of the company Silver Wings Corp., registered N1626L, which is presumed to have been bought by Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares - son of former President Ricardo Martinelli - "with funds from money laundering."
The document, which has the signature of prosecutor Tania Sterling, explains the request for apprehension of the helicopter as part of the investigation into the alleged payment of bribes from Odebrecht through Swiss banks to Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, both children of the former president, who are charged with money laundering.
The prosecutor emphasized in the letter of assistance that the existence of the helicopter was confirmed by lawyer Evelyn Vargas Reynaga, who also faces charges in the case. The lawyer said the aircraft was purchased in Guatemala in the name of a Silver Wing, and was also registered in the United States.
The helicopter was included in a trust on behalf of Aircraft Trust & Finance Corp. Trustee, according to research conducted by the Public Ministry.
The prosecution requested legal assistance from Guatemalan authorities to seize the aircraft.
Guatemala reported that the helicopter was moved on March 11 from La Aurora Airport to Ilopango Air Terminal in El Salvador. It was piloted by Jorge Verdera.
The authorities of El Salvador informed the prosecution that the aircraft departed yesterday for Tapachula, Mexico, with a final destination of Miami, where former President Martinelli has allegedly lived since Jan. 28, 2015.
Panama asked the United States to extradite Martinelli as part of the wiretapping process during his term (2009-2014).
"It is evident the urgency in obtaining the apprehension of this property before its eventual loss," Sterling said.
The prosecutor yesterday raised a request to the United Mexican States to apprehend the aircraft, which, as was said, is presumed to have been acquired by Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares.
The prosecution's request is based on Law 57 of September 17, 2013, which in article 1 allows the authorities of other nations to proceed to the provisional apprehension of assets and accounts of suspects involved in crimes.
The helicopter is part of the money laundering investigation into the Martinelli brothers, which includes the seizure of $22 million in Swiss bank accounts.
Prosecutors suspect that the money was paid on orders from Odebrecht as bribes for infrastructure works awarded to the company by Panama.
VARGAS GIVES DETAILS
Vargas Reynaga in the extension of his inquiry on March 6, released the details of how the helicopter was acquired.
He said that during the presidential term of Ricardo Martinelli, one of his sons, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, asked him to establish the company Yellow Wing, "with the purpose of requesting the concession of a lot for the construction of a hangar in Albrook."
He specified that the hangar to store the aircraft was started by architect named Edgar Armijo, but in the end the work was completed by Transcaribe Trading (TCT), a company that under the Martinelli administration became one of the state's main contractors, whose shareholders include David Ochy.
He stated that two hangars were built in the concession, one belonging to David Ochy and the other to the Martinelli family, but "both under the Yellow Wing society," he said.
He explained that later Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares told him that he was not going to buy a plane, but that he did buy a new helicopter.
"It was bought on behalf of a company called Silver Wing," said Vargas Reynaga. "I remember being told to go to Civil Aeronautics for registration of that helicopter, but in the end I was told that it was not going to be registered here in Panama, but it was going to be registered in the United States."
He pointed out that later, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares told him that he had contacted a company that was making arrangements to register the aircraft. The company was from Miami, he said.
The desire to acquire a new helicopter in the Martinelli family goes back to the first months of Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal's government.
On December 22, 2011, Mauro Velocci, a representative in Panama of the Italian company Svemark and principal witness in the corruption case in Italy involving Valter Lavítola, reported that the latter asked him to buy a helicopter for Ricardo Martinelli.
In a La Prensa publication of Oct. 9, 2013, entitled "A helicopter for President Martinelli," details were given of how the aircraft was purchased, chosen by one of the children of the former president.
According to Velocci, Lavítola gave him the exact data of the model of helicopter chosen by Ricardo Martinelli. It was a Eurocopter, model EC135 P-2i or a T2i, "upholstered in Hermés leather, valued at $8 million," explained Velocci.
In an interview with La Prensa, in early August 2013 in Rome, Velocci said that "when Lavítola commissioned me to buy the helicopter, he handed me a paper that had all the specifications and I was told it would be handled by the president's son."
He added that the helicopter was to be delivered to the president by Finmeccanica and was not part of the half dozen aircraft that Panama bought from this company as part of a $250 million contract.
However, Finmeccanica could not deliver the helicopter at that time because the required model was not available. Lavítola asked Velocci to look for another option, and that lef to the IBT Group's representative in Panama: Rogelio Oruña, a company that made hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts during Martinelli's administration.
Oruña accompanied Velocci to Albrook, to HelipanCorp., where he was informed that they had located an Agusta Grand model for about $7 million.
Vargas Reynaga also revealed that among the societies that the brothers Martinelli Linares ordered him to create, and whose aims he did not know, they include Barbarena Corp., Las Tablas Development, Agua Dulce Development and Dejavou.
"There were also [sic] others, but they did not tell me what they were to be used for. I only complied with making them and registering them in the Public Registry."
He said that he knew the goals of other companies, namely Rome Development for a concession at the airport in Tocumen; Black Tip Inc. to purchase a yacht; And Desarrollo Inmobiliario Ibérico, which was for the purchase of property in Madrid, Spain.
The prosecutor asked Vargas Reynaga about the final beneficiaries of each society he created for Martinelli.
"All the companies of the Martinelli Group are in the name of a company called Empresas Martinelli and the beneficiaries are the Martinelli family, the children - Ricardo Alberto, Luis Enrique and Carolina Martinelli Linares; Gloria Berrocal - the mother of the former president; Marta Linares de Martinelli - his wife - and Mario Martinelli Berrocal, his brother."