If you were a playwright, you'd wish you'd have written this. As the drug-money laundering indictment against now-infamous pyramid schemer money-launderer David Murcia comes down in U.S. federal court, the Panamanian press buzzes amidst new revelations of links between this illicit businessman, state security forces and Panamanian politicians.
Some of the highest ranking leaders of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI in its Spanish initials) were arrested for their alleged role in providing the equivalent of Panamanian Secret Service protection to Murcia. From La Prensa in Panama (Spanish only):
The controversial Colombian prisoner was able to penetrate the highest spheres of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI), the specialized entity in charge of security for the Presidency of the Republic.
Yesterday the disciplinary body of the SPI detained at its operations center in Corozal two agency directors, Joseph Antoine y Luis Almengor, both for links to the network of agents who served as protection for Murcia, without presidential authorization, as the La Prensa put forth yesterday.
Even though it sounds a lot like another country nearby with which Bush administration negotiated an FTA, infiltration of organized crime into the highest levels of the Panamanian state security apparatus should raise eyebrows.
La Estrella reports that agents seems to have been present in meetings between Murcia and Panamanian politicians, and reminds us that it's not the first time the SPI is in hot water:
The image of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI) has been tarnished yet again with accusations of SPI agents who protected Colombian businessman David Murcia Guzman in their spare time, in violation of SPI code.
They have previously gained notoriety for beating protesting victims and family members involved in the diethylene glycol poisoning case outside the Presidential Palace in 2007. When figures from the “Juegos de Antaño” statues in Parque Omar went missing, numerous charges were laid against SPI agents.
In the latest scandal three agents have been dismissed and two are still under investigation.
...Ironically, it is these same officers working outside their line of duty who could now serve as witnesses of a possible meeting between Panama City’s mayoral candidate, Bobby Velazquez, and Murcia, as the saga continues over Murcia’s claims that both Velazquez’s and presidential candidate Balbina Herrera’s campaign had contact with him.
According to Fernando Aguilar, one of Moscoso’s guards who was paid $200 a day to protect Murcia, he recognized two of the people who entered Murcia’s presidential suite at the Sheraton Hotel on October 27, 2008: “Bobby” Velazquez and his father Roberto. Both were allegedly greeted by Murcia as one greets old acquaintances.
It's hard to imagine a multi-million dollar Colombia-Panama scandal not somehow involving drug money laundering and thus linked to armed groups in Colombia or
Mexico. The same could be said about a political cover-up for that
matter. But presidential guards allegedly "moonlighting" for a criminal businessman who just happens to be funneling money to ruling party politicians!?!? Wow.
(Photo Courtesy of Flickr user Oneris Rico under a Creative Commons License)