Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Viewing cable 06PANAMA1286, PANAMA'S CIVIL AVIATION DIRECTOR FORCED TO RESIGN

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Reference IDCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06PANAMA12862006-06-30 22:132011-05-31 00:00CONFIDENTIALEmbassy Panama

VZCZCXYZ0014
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #1286/01 1812213
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 302213Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8476
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 0100
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 2348
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0287
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0169
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1050
RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 0016
RUEHKG/AMEMBASSY KINGSTON 0226
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUN LIMA 0659
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 3109
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 0098
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 0908
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 0197
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 0364
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0034
RUEABND/DEA AVIATIONS OPERATIONS TX
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001286

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2015
TAGS: ECON EAIR FAA
SUBJECT: PANAMA'S CIVIL AVIATION DIRECTOR FORCED TO RESIGN

REF: DEPT FOR WHA/SCHIFFER

Classified By: AMB. Eaton for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: Panama's Civil Aviation Authority (AAC)
Director Tomas Paredes told EconOff that President Torrijos
requested his resignation on June 26.  On June 30, Torrijos
nominated Eustacio Fabrega Lopez as the new AAC Director and
sent the nomination to the National Assembly for approval.
Paredes alleges his removal was due to his support of an
Attorney General investigation into alleged corruption by his
Subdirector Nelly Simeon.  Paredes further alleges Simeon,s
staffing decisions at the AAC are intended to replace non-
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) employees with PRD party
members.  Without Paredes, the USG is losing a cooperative
high-level official in its interdiction efforts and in
ensuring a high level of safety in Panamanian aviation.  END
SUMMARY.

--------------------
The New AAC Director
--------------------

2. (C) Fabrega was the AAC Director from 1994 to 1999 under
the Balladares administration.  Fabrega is an alleged old
hunting companion of Manuel Noriega.  The AAC Coordinator for
Operational Security told EconOff he worked with Fabrega and
he was an excellent director.  The Coordinator told EconOff
that Fabrega's nomination should be approved by the National
Assembly "in a few days".

---------------
Alleged Motives
---------------

3.  (C) Paredes told EconOff that AAC Subdirector Nelly
Simeon has been trying to engineer his departure since she
took office in 2004.  Paredes believes his removal is linked
to Simeon's pending corruption investigation by the GoP's
Attorney General's Office. Simeon is under investigation for
misuse of government property and personnel.  In allegations
filed with the Attorney General's office, Simeon is accused
of operating an import/export business, Marketing Concepts
Corporation (MCC), without submission of the requisite duties
or paperwork.  The allegations further state that GoP
personnel and vehicles were used to transport the products.
Paredes told EconOff that the Director of the Customs
Department personally stopped a search of MCC's offices.  As
a result of the investigation, Paredes was required to
respond to the Attorney General's office inquiries and
corroborated many of the allegations.

4. (C) Paredes further alleges that Simeon has been using her
position to fire non-PRD employees and fill them with PRD
members.  Paredes claims Simeon is part of Torrijos' inner
circle and has placed many of her friends and PRD loyalists
in positions which control access and information flow to key
ministers and Torrijos.  Paredes believes Simeon was working
to pick his successor and has control of the AAC.

-------------------------
Simeon, Sampo and the DEA
-------------------------

5. (C) Paredes alleges Simeon traveled to Brazil with Mario
Sampo to solicit private investments for mining projects in
Panama.  Sampo is a Brazilian businessman who has previously
been under indictment for bank fraud in Panama.   Paredes
alleges that while in Brazil Simeon held herself out to
investors as GoP Vice Minister of Transportation and said all
mining activities in Panama had to go through her office.
Paredes related an alleged incident where Simeon personally
interceded to prevent AAC security officials from detaining
an airplane owned by Sampo which was not properly registered.
 Note: DEA in Panama has previously been in contact with
Paredes regarding Simeon,s alleged involvement with Sampo.

----------------------------------------
Latin American Civil Aviation Commission
----------------------------------------

6. (C) In November 2006, Panama,s AAC Director becomes the
president of the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission for
the next three years.

-------
Comment
-------

7.  (C) The USG is losing a cooperative high-level aviation
official in its interdiction efforts and in ensuring a high
level of safety in Panamanian aviation.  If Paredes,
allegations regarding Simeon are correct, Simeon joins a
growing list of high-level PRD officials reported to Embassy
officials engaging in illicit activity and using their GOP
positions for personal gain.