Spanish version

GOVERNMENT

Morales linked to mall project, questionable government contracts

Poulett Morales has been linked to the building of a shopping mall in Marbella.

She is tied to companies who received questionable contracts during the last government.

Spanish version

Temas:

A shopping center that is under construction in the exclusive area of Marbella has been linked to businesswoman Poulett Morales, whose companies received multi-million dollar contracts from the previous government that are now under investigation.

The four-story building is being constructed by the company Inmobiliaria Polfe, S.A., which was registered in November 2012. The treasurer of the company is Janeth Araúz, an employee in DHD, a store owned by Morales which specializes in shoes, clothing and accessories for women.

Araúz is also the president of APM Supplies, which was awarded a $6 million contract for the sale and distribution of backpacks to the Ministry of Education during the government of Ricardo Martinelli.

In April 2013, an application was submitted to the national environmental authority (Anam) for the permit to build the shopping center.

That application said the building would be named Poulett Shopping Center, though at the construction site there is a sign that identifies the building as "Centro Comercial Lett."

Morales has never confirmed that she is the owner of the building, and did not respond to requests for comment. She has also refused to comment on contracts issued by the government to companies she has links to.

Real estate experts say the property could be worth as much as $8 million.

Yesterday, through his Twitter account, the former president said he met Morales in 2006, but denied having any close ties to the businesswoman.

But she has been a staunch supporter of the CD, Martinelli's political party, posting numerous photos of herself on social networks at campaign events. She appears in a promotional video thanking the former president for the job he did while in office and is seen hanging posters for José Domingo Arias, the party's candidate in the last election.

Several companies linked to Morales have been awarded large contracts by the National Assistance Program (PAN), which are now under investigation.

These include Comercializadora Galbedusa Panama, a company which includes Morales' employee Vanessa Gutiérrez as one of the directors. The company sold backpacks to the Ministry of Education for $3.9 million. It also received contracts for appliances.

In documents filed with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the company does not mention being involved in the sale of backpacks or appliances.

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