The government prosecutors in Panama have appealed the not guilty judgment, entered by a three-judge panel, in favor of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, seeking to annul the ruling of the Court of Justice. The appeal, brought by Organized Crime prosecutors to the Superior Court of Appeals, is an attempt to overturn the findings of fact, including that the government failed to prove that the electronic surveillance was not authorized by a judicial body. If convicted, Martinelli faced a maximum of twenty-one years' imprisonment.
Objective legal observers of the Panama judicial scene have concluded that the government proved its case, regarding illegal surveillance, and have concluded that the not guilty judgment constitutes reversible error, but have also admitted that the Panamanian courts are deeply flawed, and often fail to follow the Rule of Law, and that corruption may have been a major factor in the decision.
Rumors that multi-million dollar bribes being paid to members of the judiciary, to find Martinelli not guilty have swirled around Panama City since the ruling, even to the point of specific bribe figures being quoted. The decision has merely confirmed that litigants cannot have any faith in the integrity of the Panamanian judicial system, where bribes and kickbacks often dictate the outcome of court cases.
Corruption in the local courts is systemic and rampant. Foreign investors would be well advised to steer clear of the Republic of Panama, and in recent years, most have prudently sought to place their funds elsewhere, especially after a number of major financial scandals broke in the local press.