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Panama media group faces money laundering probe

Critica blames Varela

THE FIRST  Public Prosecutor’s Office against Organized  Crime has opened an investigation into  transactions that were carried out for the purchase of a Panama media group.

The criminal investigation arises because the funds are allegedly linked to illicit activities.

According to the Office of the Prosecutor, on Thursday, three charges have been filed  for the alleged commission of the crime of money laundering.

Without identifying the company, the Attorney General’s Office indicated that they deposited “In a bank account, within a period of two days”, funds for the acquisition of  the communications group.

Such money would allegedly be related to crimes against the administration

The Office of the Public  Prosecutor emphasized in the communiqué detailed the  criminal investigation that “it respects and guarantees freedom of expression and the editorial line of the media. ”

“Therefore, the criminal investigation does not affect the labor relationship nor the journalistic activities” of the media group, it emphasized.

Meanwhile Panama America carried a headline  implying President Juan Carlos Varela was using the Public Ministry to attack Epasa, which owns Panama America and Critica and is controlled by ex-President Ricardo Martinelli

“The government of President Varela promotes an attack against Epasa, with actions from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, after publications of the newspapers of this company exposing  high figures of this administration,” said Panama America.

A photo of Varela and Attorney General Keni Porcell carries the caption: “The action of the Public Ministry, is part of a process of persecution against the Epasa group, after it made publications linked  to relatives of José Luis Varela, brother of the Panamanian president.



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6 hours ago, Moderator_02 said:

On the day they were detained, Daniel Ochy also went to the First Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime in connection with alleged irregularities in a series of transactions made for the purchase of Editora Panamá América, S.A (Epasa), publishers of Panama America and Critica.

Epasa is the group of newspapers and media which serve as a mouthpiece for former President Ricardo Martinelli. The Prosecutor is alleging that money laundering was involved in the purchase of the media group.

Apparently eighteen people came up with a few million dollars each within a two day period to close this deal. Where did they get it? Remember those cost overruns by David Ochy's company TCT on the Arraijan-Chorrera highway project?

Since this investigation was made public the other day, Martinelli supporters have been crying foul screaming that President Varela is trying to shut down the newspapers and inhibit freedom of the press.

To that end, the Attorney General Kenia Porcell held a news conference today to lay out the case and reiterate that there is no intent to stifle journalism.


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Prosecutors swoop on $39.9 million media buy money laundering

Kenia Porcell

CRIMINAL CHARGES have been laid against 17 individuals and a law firm involved in the $39.9 million acquisition of the Panama America newspaper group allegedly through money laundering.

The announcement  came from Attorney General  Kenia Porcell on Monday June 26. She highlighted  the “New Business”, investigation  covering a series of transactions made for the purchase of the group Editora Panamá América S.A. (Epasa),  allegedly with funds of public origin.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are already “working” on the seizure of bank accounts that have been identified as having links to the case, and others will be charged, she said.

Porcell said that an investigation was opened in February this year to obtain information from a bank account of an offshore company.

The account  was to “receive and group money, whose origin was alleged to be illicit  and was used to acquire  a media group.”reports La Prensa

The money came from, among other sources, the tender for the expansion and improvement of the ArraijánLa Chorrera highway.

“The crime of money laundering requires an offense […] of a previous wrongful act.”

The precedent at the moment is the case of the La ChorreraArraiján highway, ”  which would mean the commission of an offense against the public administration she said.

Part of the money received from the State to expand the highway, for the purchase of the media group,

The company Transcaribe Trading, S.A. (TCT), linked to the brothers David and Daniel Ochy, was awarded the contract.  The Government advanced $ 22 million, that is presumed to be part of the funds to acquire the editorial group, said the prosecutor.

Laundering structure
Porcell explained during the press conference the process and structuring of the alleged offense.

The  money transfer was made in In 2010, using seven local and five foreign banks under US, Swiss and Chinese jurisdiction.

In total, the 18 individuals and legal entities carried out 18 transactions, of which  16 were in a period of two days.  The transactions were for various amounts, ranging from $80,000 thousand to $11.4 million,

The transfers arrived in  the account called “New Business”, in the  British Virgin Islands

British. This company has a bank account in the island of Montserrat, in the Caribbean.

“All the money comes to this offshore bank account, in Montserrat, and from there, on December 21 and 22,  2010, two checks were drawn up for the purchase of these companies, for a total of 39.9 million, “said the Prosecutor.

All these people made the  moves to finally return the money to Panama. “These are the different phases of what constitutes the crime of money laundering.



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This is the official communication published on the website of the Public Ministry (Attorney-General) concerning the evidence that laundered money was used to purchase the EPASA group of newspapers and media outlets for $39 million by an offshore corporation called New Business s.a. 





As of 10 February 2017, through the National Assembly, the Public Prosecutor had knowledge of the alleged commission of an offense against the Economic Order, to wit:  Money Laundering.

To prove the crime, we conducted a series of acts of investigation that allowed us to obtain bank information, in a clear and precise manner, which details the use of an offshore bank account to receive and group money whose origin was related to activities linked to crimes against the public administration and, in order to conceal the alleged illicit origin of the money, were acquired a group of companies, including media.

In this financial operation, it was possible to identify money from the state to be admitted, in an unusual manner to the financial system, and then distribute it to other natural and legal persons that finally came together to integrate the money of the purchase of these companies. This process, to comply with the phase that is used for the crime of money laundering; they are:

First:    Arrangement
Second:     Groundwork
Third:     Integration (Investment)

The economic maneuver of transfer of money, was carried out in the term of 2 days, using 7 local and 5 foreign banks with jurisdiction in the U.S., Switzerland and China,  which made it necessary to link research with these countries for international cooperation and effective criminal prosecution.

We are aware that freedom of information is the basis of any democratic system. This research, as we have previously reported, is not directed against the work of any means of communication or editorial line.

The Public Ministry of Panama, respects the right to freedom of information, so that it would not affect in any way the activity performed by such means of communication. That being the case, we inform you that we have not ordered any legal action to limit or affect, nor injure the full exercise and operation of the Panamanian press.

The Public Ministry, has neither kidnapped nor raided the premises of this business group, and is not intending to close the company.


The Public Prosecutor is responsible for criminal prosecution in accordance with the Constitution; therefore, all acts of research carried out by this Institution have to prosecute the offense, in strict compliance with the law.

Panama, 26 June 2017





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The Procadura General or Attorney-General here has to walk a fine line to protect freedom of the press which was apparently purchased with money stolen from the public and is being used as a weapon to criticize the government at every opportunity.

This op-ed piece concerning the Epasa group purchase was published in LaPrensa and republished in Newsroom.

Hoyporhoy  La Prensa June 27


THE TAXES  that Panamanians paid with so much effort were given to a company as an advance for the expansion of a major highway.

The money was diverted to make a business transaction, which is a crime. Its origin was concealed using foreign banks and  Caribbean companies, to place it in a basket together with funds from other companies and individuals to buy a publishing group . The  Public Ministry has made visible the sinister network that stole public funds, and laundered them. These are not  simple crimes, but criminal acts of the worst kind. The theft of  public works for the business whims of an inner circle. The prosecutors have  an extremely sensitive case on their hands  because there are three newspapers critical of the current government that must be protected. This is not persecution of freedom of expression, but it should be clear that the public treasury must be defended, as must freedom of the press. Panama is confident that the public prosecutors will fulfill their duties.


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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Scandal Involving Editora Panamá América (Epasa) -- The Media Mouthpiece for Martinelli -- Raises Issues About Freedom of the Press
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Prosecutor appeals ruling in “New Business” probe


THE FIRST PROSECUTOR Against Organized Crime is appealing  against a Criminal Circuit Judge’s refusal to declare “complex cause,”  the investigation known as New Business case, related to the purchase of Editora Panamá América (Epasa) during the administration of ex-president Ricardo Martinelli.

According to the Public Ministry , the origin of the investigation lies in a series of deposits made by a group of Panama businessmen, in two days, for the acquisition of the media group. The money which arrived via offshore banks is believed to have come from public projects.

In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office (MP) explained that while the application is being resolved, a large number of diligences and investigative acts are being carried out to prove the last phases of this complex financial operation in which money of the Panamanian people was used.

“All persons linked to this investigation have at their disposal an effective collaboration agreement and penalty agreements, as a mechanism to resolve the legal situation and return the money in this case,” the statement said.



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The 'New Business case is back on track. An appeal by the Public Ministry to have the case declared 'complex' was successful.


This is the organized crime , money laundering case where millions of dollars were overcharged on a highway project and then funneled by a number of people through foreign jurisdictions, eventually terminating with the purchase of the Epasa media group.

Edited by Keith Woolford
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Move to block organized crime probe rejected

Ricardo Chanis
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AN ATTEMPT to overturn an Organized Crime investigation into the purchase -allegedly with state funds-  of a newspaper that became a mouthpiece for Ricardo Martinelli, has been tossed out.

The Eighteenth Criminal Court declared unproven an incident of controversy presented by Ricardo Chanis Correa, who was trying to overturn the September 2017 order to investigate, issued by the First Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime related to transactions for the purchase of the Editora Panama group America, S.A. (Epasa), in the  case known as “New Business.”

In the ruling of December 11, 2017, Judge Baloisa Marquínez denied the certification issued by the Caja de Ahorros  (CA), in which it shows that Chanis Correa was part of the board of directors of the banking entity.

Documentation provided by the CA showed that at a meeting on December 14, 2010, The Board of Directors approved a pledge loan to Henri Mizrachi for $4 million and a commercial loan to the  Office Global Corp., for $3 million. According to the ruling of the judge, the loan was “for working capital, however, these funds ended up being used for the purchase of Grupo Panamá América. “.

According to the judge, Chanis Correa “is the person who is the company Tphac Inc buyer of the shares of Epasa and also is the one who signed the sales contract with Francisco Arias Vallarino “, representative of Epasa.

The prosecution is investigating another 30 people accused of money laundering in the purchase of the company that publishes Panama America. The CA is the center of another criminal investigation into a multi-million dollar  loan to a company building an unfinished convention center



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Suspect opts not to answer organized crime prosecutor

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Henri Mizrachi,  who spent months avoiding questioning by anti-corruption prosecutors, finally showed up on Monday, April 2 to explain his role in the “New Business” case involving the purchase of Editora Panamá América, S.A. (Epasa) by a group from he  Martinell ZeroCircle  with public funds in the year 2010

Accompanied by his lawyer  Elias Solano, he opted not to answer questions posed by the First Specialized Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime,  opting to take advantage of Article 25 of the Constitution, which says that “no one is required to testify against himself in a criminal, correctional or police investigation.  Mizrachi a director of the Panama Canal Authority (ACPI attended the summons to the investigation only after the Eighteenth Criminal Court granted him bail not to be arrested.

He and co-defendant  Nicolas Corcionne are expected to be fired from the ACP by the Cabinet this week.  Corcionne has fled the country and is the subject of an Interpol Red Alert.



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Prosecutor asks bail cancelation for fugitive in US

Gabriel Btesh, on bail, detained in US
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An Organized Crime Prosecutor has asked the 18th Criminal Court to cancel the $250,000 bail of a Ricardo Martinell insider who had fled the country and was picked up in the USA last week.

The bail to avoid arrest was granted on July 27, 2017, to businessman Gabriel Gaby Btesh, under investigation for alleged money laundering during the purchase of Editora Panamá América, S.A. (Epasa) supposedly with public funds, in a case labeled New Business.

In a letter sent to the court on March 23, Prosecutor Raúl Sánchez said that the petition is due to news published a day before – on March 22 – according to which Btesh was apprehended by agents of the US Immigration and Customs Control Service of the United States for alleged problems with his visa. According to the prosecution, the above “is of particular importance in the complex case that his office manages

The prosecutor argued,  that the accused “has not fully complied with the obligations imposed by bail  legislation ”

He also warned that the record shows that Btesh left Panama on September 14, of 2014; that is, more than three years ago.

For the reasons stated, the prosecutor Sanchez called for the provisional detention of the accused.

Judicial sources informed La Prensa that Btesh has not paid the amount of the bond.

Red Alert
On August 3, 2017, the Office of the Prosecutor against Organized Crime requested Interpol to disseminate a red alert for the arrest of Btesh, whom he links to the case through  the Pavilion Financial Company, which  participates together with the merchants Felipe Pipo Virzi and David Ochy, in one of the suspicious transactions made for the purchase of the Epasa group, now said to be controlled by ex-president Ricardo Martinelli.



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Bail revoked for “New Business” suspect


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The Second Superior Court has revoked the bail of businessman Gabriel, Gabby Btesh, who is one of the Martinelli insider group under investigation for alleged money laundering of capital after the purchase of Editora Panamá América, S.A., with alleged public funds, in the case known as New Business. The ruling was announced on Wednesday July 4.

The Eighteenth Criminal Circuit C ourt granted bail on  April 2 and it was appealed by David Mendoza, the first specialized prosecutor against Organized Crime.

Btesh is not in Panama reports La Prensa.


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Panama seeks US extradition of $250,000 bail-skipper Btesh

Btesh to follow Martinelli extradition path
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Panama’s Public Ministry (MP)    is seeking the extradition from the USA of a prominent member of the inner circle of former president Ricardo Martinelli to face money laundering charges.

The MP has asked the  Foreign  Ministry to help seek  the  arrest for extradition of businessman Gabriel Gaby Btesh – who has skipped a $250,000 bail bond- as part of the investigation of the “New Business” case  related to transactions for the purchase of Editora Panamá América, S.A. (Epasa) with alleged public funds.

The request, dated August 20, is based on Article 9 of the Treaty of Extradition signed between Panama and the United States in 1904.

The First Prosecutor’s Office against Organized Crime requested the seizure of all articles, instruments, valuables or documents in possession of Btesh at the time of his arrest, which can be used as evidence of the crime for which his extradition is requested. According to Interpol reports, Btesh is in the United States.

An order to attend an investigation was issued in June 2017 and a detention order on July 28, 2017.

In a ruling of July 4, 2018, The Second Superior Court revoked the bond that the Eighteenth Criminal  Court  had granted him for $250,000

“The accused was granted bail and has not offered the slightest interest in appearing in Panamanian territory to register the respective bond, ” says the ruling, with a presentation by Judge Wilfredo Sáenz.



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Judge grants bail for businessman on the run

Gabby Btesh,
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In the latest revelation of Panama ’s bewildering judicial system, a Panama judge has granted bail to  Gabriel Btesh a fugitive from justice who has fled the country and is being sought by Interpol.

The Fourteenth Court granted a bail for $100,000 to the businessman, in the money laundering criminal process in the Jal Offshore account of Financial Pacific (FP).

The bond was granted on  June 13, along with an impediment of leaving the country and the obligation to report twice a month.

The ruling was signed by Judge Vilma Urieta, who recently decided to file the $30 million case of embezzlement in a loan given by the Savings Bank, for the construction of the Amador Convention Center.

The benefit of release was granted despite the fact that Btesh is out of the country and maintains the status of fugitive from justice, in the New Business case which is related to the purchase of Editora Panamá América for $22 million, allegedly with public funds.

The Office of against Organized Crime the Prosecutor sent a red alert to Interpol, for  Btesh be detained and extradited to Panama for the New Business case.

Meanwhile, the Seventh Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the Jal Offshore account. That FP account used to buy and sell shares in the stock market.

But according to the prosecution, it was used to send and receive money from companies Panamanians and foreigners. It is estimated that $4.4 million was laundered



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Businessman whereabouts unknown gets $100,000 bail


Gabriel Btesh

Posted 18/11/2019

The elusive businessman Gabriel Btesh, a member of the Ricardo Martinelli inner circle and charged with alleged embezzlement while his whereabouts are unknown has been granted bail of $100,000.

The decision was made by Eleventh Criminal Court, judge Nixela Aizprúa, following a request by Btesh's lawyers and as part of a judicial process for as part of the process for the alleged commission of crimes against public administration to the detriment of the state-owned International Airport from Tocumen SA (Aitsa).

This process began on the basis of a complaint filed in August 21for alleged improper handling of the contract between Aitsa and Republic Parking SA (today Sky Parking SA) that allowed charging for the use of parking lots in the air terminal.

A 2016 audit report by the Office of the Comptroller General, which analyzed the period of the contract - from October 1, 2011 to July 31, 2014 - concluded that the State ceased to receive $ 1.9 million from the direct contract with the company Sky Parking, linked to Btesh.

Btesh was related to the case by a statement by Francisco Pérez Ferreira - who was listed in companies linked to the businessman  - in which he states that Republic Parking was created with a view to obtaining a concession in Tocumen, a state company in which his father Jack Btesh was a member of the board of directors.

In this case, the Public Prosecutor has laid charges and requested the call to trial of former Minister of Economy and Finance Frank De Lima; the former manager of Tocumen, SA Juan Carlos Pino; and  Dionisia Gutiérrez and Jaime Quintero, who were representatives of Republic Parking.



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$400,000 bail for suspect facing multi-million laundering charges


Posted 16/02/2020

Panama’s Second  Criminal Court has granted a bail of $400,000 not to be detained to a man under investigation in multiple high profile cases including alleged money laundering through the liquidated Financial Pacific (FP) securities house.

The ruling, by  Judge Wilfredo Sáenz, considered that Gabriel Btesh,  who has fled the country does not have a criminal record, has not escaped from a prison or there is no evidence that he wants to do so, maintains family roots in Panama and has shown interest in returning to face the investigations against him.

Btesh's defense provided the court with a note in which he  claims to be willing to return to the country on a voluntary basis and appear before the authorities, which would imply compliance with the notifications

A Btesh is related to activities carried out through FP and the Jal Offshore company, which moved large sums of money when that securities house was not authorized by the Securities Market Superintendence to do those activities.

Btesh also maintains a process in the Eighteenth Criminal Court, related to the New Business case and another in the Eleventh Criminal Court, for the alleged commission of the crime of embezzlement to the detriment of Tocumen SA for the contract for the parking charge reports La Prensa.



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Prosecutor requests trial of Martinelli and 24 cohorts


Posted 18/03/2021

The Public Ministry (MP) has requested the summons to trial of 25 people in the “New Business ” case for the alleged use of public funds for the purchase of the Epasa publishing group  publisher of Critica and Dia a Dia in 2010, during the Ricardo Martinelli government period (2009-2014).

The  Prosecutor's Office against Organized Crime, reported that on Thursday, March 18, it sent the file to the Third Court for Criminal Proceedings of the First Judicial Circuit of Panama.

In the fiscal hearing - which consists of 161 volumes - the dismissal is also requested for 9 people, investigated for the alleged commission of the crime against the economic order, in the form of money laundering.

The brothers Daniel and David Ochy, Felipe Pipo Virzi, Gabriel Btesh, Riccardo Francolini, Ricardo Chanis and Martinelli  are among the accused.

As part of the investigation, it was established that $43,912,828. was transferred through a complex scheme for the purchase of a social media outlet, the MP said in a statement. Of that amount, $9.2,million in shares has been recovered, which were remitted to the National Treasury; this represents, in turn, the recovery of 30% of the shares of the Epasa publishing group for the State.

Former President Martinelli was one of the last defendants. The prosecution summoned him to the investigation on July 2, but he accepted article 25 of the Constitution order not to testify against himself, brought out the principle of specialty between Panama and the States, and presented a medical disability.

In this case, the former president has a measure preventing him from leaving the country, and the duty to notify the judicial authorities on the 15th of each month reports La Prensa.



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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to "New Business" Scandal Involving Editora Panamá América (Epasa) -- The Media Mouthpiece for Martinelli -- Also Raises Issues About Freedom of the Press

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