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05PANAMA2020 2005-10-06 20:30:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Panama
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PANAMA 002020 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/2015

Classified By: Ambassador William A. Eaton. Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary. Panama,s Attorney General pledged to
cooperate fully with the USG as the case against former
Nicaraguan President Aleman goes before a judge on November

23. There are opportunities for the USG to assist Panamanian
prosecutors as they prepare for the November hearing. An
arrest warrant could be issued for the defendants in the
case, but this decision rests with the judge. While the case
in Panama can help keep the pressure on Aleman, there are a
number of obstacles in the way of his ever standing trial
here. End Summary.

Ambassador and AG Discuss Aleman Case


2. (C) On October 6 the Ambassador met with Panamanian
Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez to discuss the money
laundering case against former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo
Aleman. The meeting took place at our request, and the
Ambassador was accompanied by the DHS/ICE case agent and NAS
Director (notetaker). Gomez was accompanied by acting Anti
Corruption Prosecutor Mercedes De Leon. (Note: De Leon, who
is very close to the Attorney General and an excellent
Embassy contact, was likely hand picked by the AG for this
sensitive position).

3. (C) The Ambassador began by expressing the USG,s
appreciation for the cooperation that Panama has provided to
date related to the international efforts to bring former
President Aleman to justice. The Ambassador also reinforced
the message delivered by WHA DAS Dan Fisk during his
late-September visit regarding the importance of the
Panamanian case against Aleman. The Ambassador also brought
the Attorney General up to date on USG diplomatic efforts to
isolate Aleman, in particular during the Deputy Secretary,s
visit to Managua this week.

4. (C) The Attorney General assured the Ambassador that she
shared the USG,s interest in seeing Aleman brought to
justice. She provided the Ambassador with a copy of the
Panamanian charges against Aleman, and invited USG experts to
examine the evidence that the GOP possessed. Her only
request was that the USG not disclose that this information
had been shared with us and that we return the file to her
office after it has been reviewed by our experts. The
Attorney General said that Prosecutor De Leon would be
willing to provide clarification on any of the issues in the
Panamanian case.

AG Confident, but Welcomes USG Help


5. (C) The Attorney General and De Leon expressed confidence
in Panama,s case against Aleman, but welcomed USG assistance
in preparing for the November 23 initial hearing. Since
taking over from Anti Corruption Prosecutor Cecilia Lopez,
who has been handling the case but is now on two months
vacation, De Leon has already responded to motions from the
defense asking that the case be dismissed. In the latest
motion, Aleman,s defense attorney claimed that the former
President enjoyed immunity from prosecution because of his
membership in Parlacen. The Panamanians successfully
defeated that motion, arguing that since the immunity did not
apply in Nicaragua it would not hold in Panama either.

6. (C) The Attorney General emphasized the importance of a
strong presentation to the judge in the initial hearing, and
requested assistance from the USG in procuring audiovisual
equipment to help with the presentation. (Note: NAS will
follow up with De Leon,s office to respond to this request.)
The Attorney General and De Leon said that they were
pleased with the judge who had been chosen to hear this case,
noting that while she lacked experience with complicated
financial cases her reputation was solid. With this in
mind, the Attorney General suggested that the USG arrange
some training for the judge who would be hearing the case
(under the umbrella of a broader training initiative).

7. (C) De Leon said that she anticipated three lines of
defense for Aleman. First, his attorneys would continue to
argue that he benefited from immunity. Second, they would
argue that since money laundering had not been a crime in
Panama when the funds were deposited, he should be absolved.
Finally, the attorney would seek to portray the charges
against Aleman in Nicaragua as politically motivated. De
Leon felt confident in her ability to counter each of these
defenses. She said that Panama,s financial investigation
had been well done, and that there was a very strong case
against Aleman for laundering money in Panama.

Possible Pressure On the Accused?


8. (C) The Ambassador asked if it would be possible for
Panama to issue an arrest warrant for Aleman and his
co-accused. The Attorney General instructed De Leon to
present such a request to the judge, noting that it was
unlikely that the accused would voluntarily present
themselves in Panama for trial or to respond to questions.
The Attorney General was clear that to succeed, such a
request could not be seen as politically motivated. With
this in mind, the Attorney General noted that she was not in
contact with Panama,s executive branch regarding this case.

9. (C) The Attorney General said that her staff were in
contact with Nicaraguan counterparts, however, and that she
expected a visit from the Nicaraguan prosecutor prior to the
November 23 hearing. She also suggested that Panama would
request judicial assistance from Nicaragua, for example, help
in allowing Panamanian prosecutors to question Aleman and his

Wheels of Justice Will Move Slowly


10. (C) The Ambassador asked the Attorney General what would
likely happen after the November hearing. She was honest in
answering that given the backlog in Panama,s courts, it was
likely that a trial would not be scheduled until at least
August 2006. There were also numerous opportunities for the
defense to seek further delays. This compounded with the
difficulty of compelling the presence of the accused meant
that any trial was at best a distant prospect.

Way Ahead


11. (C) We will review the Panamanian case file in
coordination with officials from DOJ, DHS/ICE, and State.
We will also coordinate with Anti Corruption Prosecutor De
Leon in advance of the November 23 hearing. It may be
useful for Embassy Managua RLA and other officials to visit
Panama, perhaps in conjunction with the planned visit by the
Nicaraguan prosecutor. We will also follow-up on the
Panamanian attempts to secure an arrest warrant in the case.
Finally, we will explore the possibility of the money
laundering training for the judge in the case, as suggested
by the Attorney General.



12. (C) From our vantage point, Panama,s Attorney General
and Anti-Corruption Prosecutors are well disposed to continue
cooperation with USG and Nicaraguan counterparts on the
Aleman case. This could be useful in keeping the pressure
on Aleman and his cronies. If a U.S. case against Aleman
were to move forward, we suspect that Panama would also
render full assistance in sharing the information it has
developed. At the same time, we doubt that Aleman and his
co-accused will ever stand trial in Panama given the
difficulty in compelling their return here to face justice.
That said, we should look for ways to support Panama,s
attorney general as she moves forward with her case against