|Photo said to be that of the vessel Aqua Bella, half submerged.|
The personal yacht of Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. the Aqua Bella, was reported sunk yesterday in the Pineapple Bay (Baía de Piñas) by local media. The yacht, which allegedly hit rocks off the coast off Panama's Darién Province, was valued at USD$ 2.5m. It is said that the vessel was unevenly loaded with a large cargo, and this caused it to veer into shallow waters
Reports say that the three crew members were rescued unharmed, as well as a member of the team of bodyguards of one of Martinelli's sons. Unverified information places one of the President's sons on the yacht. Questions have been raised in Panama about the cargo on board, and the circumstances of the last voyage of the vessel, which was rumoured to be carrying a load of cocaine. The Baía de Piñas is in Darién Province, one of Panama's most remote locations, and is very near the frontier with Colombia.
President Martinelli, who owns a chain of supermarkets in Panama, has long been linked by veteran observers of Panama to drug trafficking and money laundering. It is curious that a member of his personal bodyguard has been named as having been on board, with no family members publicly listed. Recovery efforts are said to be planned; perhaps then the truth will be known.
Panama City is rife with the rumour that President Martinelli has employed foreign IT professionals to block Internet access to local newspaper accounts of the sinking.