PANAMA CITY – A Panamanian judge ruled on May 18 that there is enough evidence to move ahead this week with the trial of Arnoldo Alemán, and issued an arrest order for the former Nicaraguan President (1997-2002), his wife, father-in-law and former tax chief on money laundering charges.
Judge Adolfo Mejía wrote in his decision that after reviewing the evidence he found “sufficient indications of links” among Alemán, his wife, Maria Fernanda Flores de Alemán, her father, José Antonio Flores, and Alemán’s former internal-revenue director Byron Jerez.
Prosecutors in Panama accused the former Nicaraguan president and the other suspects on March 30 of laundering some $58 million in public funds.
Panama’s anti-corruption prosecutor, Mercedes de León, said at a preliminary hearing that Alemán and the others diverted $58.2 million from the national coffers to accounts in a dozen Panamanian banks, using some 60 public companies created in Panama to cover up the transfers.
“The Nicaraguan government funds were transferred from one (Panamanian bank) account to another,” De León said, adding that a portion of the money was later sent to third countries.
Alemán was sentenced to a 20-year jail term for corruption charges in December 2003. He is currently serving his sentence under house arrest.
Panamanian prosecutors first opened the investigation of Alemán and the others accused in the case in 2002.