PANAMA CITY – Panamanian prosecutors on March 30 accused a former Nicaraguan President and five close advisers of laundering some $58 million in public funds.
At the start of a preliminary hearing in this capital, Panama’s anti-corruption prosecutor, Mercedes de León, formally presented the charges against former President Arnoldo Alemán and asked Judge Adolfo Mejía to bring the case to trial.
Also charged were Alemán’s wife, María Fernanda Flores de Alemán; her father, José Antonio Flores; Nicaragua’s former tax director, Byron Jerez; his wife, Ethel González, and the couple’s daughter, Valeria Jerez. De León said that Alemán, who governed his country from 1997-2002, and the others diverted $58.2 million from the Nicaraguan treasury 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,” said De León, adding that a portion of the funds was later shipped to other countries.
Judge Mejía has not said when he will decide whether or not to bring the case to trial. Alemán was convicted in December 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzling tens of millions of dollars of public money while President. Initially jailed after that verdict, he now serving time under house arrest at his family compound outside of Managua, called “El Chile.”
The Alemán family is also reportedly facing additional civil charges in the United States, regarding a frozen bank account with more than $700,000. The Nicaraguan daily La Prensa reported Monday that a trial date of April 17 has been set in a U.S. Federal Court in Florida.