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More Italy-Panama bribery allegations surface

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President Ricardo Martinlli is again making front page headlines in Italy with the publishing of a telephone conversation  with a businessman arrested on corruption charges.

The daily Il Fatto Quotidiano revealed yesterday on Monday  the contents of a telephone conversation with  Massimo Ponzellini  president of the construction company Impregilo,  Pnzellini  is being investigated for corruption, tax fraud and money laundering.

The Italian newspaper, says Rogelio Oruña, Panama representative of U.S. company -IBT, which has contracts with the current government  of over $ 400 million-would have been used to transfer money to President Martinelli and other local politicians.

La Prensa   says it tried to get a reaction to the story but it was not possible. Martinelli and his spokesmen have argued that what is published here on research in Italy is a campaign to discredit him.

Investigations of Ponzsellini then also chairman of Banco Popular de Milan, by Milan allege loans of 148 million euros, supposedly granted "through the falsification of assessment procedures in the bank "in exchange for 5.7 million euros in bribes.

The  case, is different from the process against Valter Lavítola

According to the Italian newspaper, in an intercepted conversation in April 2011 between Ponzellini and now former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi' Lavitola’s name surfaced. Lavítola  war, instrumental in a controversial millionaire contract between the Government of Panama and the Italian conglomerate Finmeccanica .

In the  conversation, Berlusconi told the president of Impregilio that Lavitola called Martinelli, requesting that the company would fulfilled the commitment to donate a hospital. The paper quoted Berlusconi as saying: “A public statement from Martinelli with intent to affect the value of the shares of Impregilo  is in the bag,"

 After the wiretapping, highlights  in Il Fatto Quotidiano , Naples prosecutors Francesco Curcio, Henry Woodcock and Vincenzo Piscitelli, who are investigating Lavítola, interrogated Ponzellini, who confirmed the contents of the audio.

According to the Italian daily, construction of hospitals, under President Martinelli, would be given to Oruña. And the witness Mauro Velocci confirms this: The paper added that another Oruña related undertaking, had been used for the transfer of money to President Martinelli of Panama and other politicians and prosecutors, the "role played by Oruña, friend and confidant of President Martinelli, represents further confirmation of the fact that the recipient of quotas was just President Martinelli ".

Lavítola who  remains detained by other processes against him, was also a consultant to Impregilo, a fact revealed by the Italian daily La Repubblica on October 8, 2010, when it was the name of Panamanian company  Agafea Corp.first came up revealing  multi million commissions for contracts  between Finmeccanica and Panama.

The revelations coincide with Lavítola statements during his second interrogation by prosecutors in Naples, when he said that the hospital promised  to Martinelli by Berlusconi would  be built on the condition that the Panamanian government give contracts to Italian companies to build the Metro.

In September 2009, the paper says, Martinelli met with Berlusconi at Palazzo Chigi, just to discuss business with Impregilo.

And a few months earlier, underscores the Italian publication, a consortium  including  Impregilo won the contract for a new system of locks in the Panama Canal.  .

 August 30, 2011, five months after the Berlusconi and Ponzellini call, Martinelli's private secretary, asking Lavítola to confirm  a hospital construction in Veraguas The same month   the Italian ambassador in Panama wrote to Chigi Palace officials informing them that of a call from  Martinelli, who was furious that Berlusconi did not keep his promise about the construction of the hospital.The suspicion of the inquisitors, says Il Fatto Quotidiano is that behind the construction of hospitals, to hide bribes to Panamanian President.

Impregilo is part of the consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal SA, which is building the third set of locks for  the Panama Canal expansion t for an amount in excess of $3 billion but it , wanted more involvement in Panama’s megaprojects.

After the first visit by  President, Martinelli, to Italy, in September 2009 - Impregilo representatives expressed their interest in expanding their investments in Panama in projects like the Metro and the construction of new prisons.

Maximum Ponzellini, now under arrest for corruption personally expressed this aspiration to Martinelli but.  The Metro is being built by the Spanish company FCC and Brazilian Odebrecht. Prison contructions are part of investigations by Naples prosecutors.