A former president of Panama is under investigation for allegedly favoring a few select gaming companies when the nation’s casinos were being privatized in the late 1990s.
Attorney General Ana Matilde Gomez ordered the investigation of former President Ernesto Perez Balladares following a recent series of articles on the subject, published by La Prensa.
The La Prensa articles claim that Balladares gave no-bid, no-fee gaming licenses to three companies-Lucky Games S.A., Comput Bingo S.A. and Competiciones Deportivas S.A.-whereas competitors paid millions to be permitted to operate.
The articles also detail a number of business connections between family members of Balladares and the companies, including a brother who is a shareholder in Comput Bingo and Competiciones Deportivas and a son-in-law who is on the board of Lucky Games.
In addition, a limited company that is connected to Balladares is said to have received frequent deposits from Carlos Gonzalez Carrasquilla, the alleged owner of Lucky Games prior to 2007.
CIRSA Panama currently owns 71 percent of Lucky Games and Gaming & Services of Panama, which merged in 2007.
Helios Navarro, general manager of CIRSA Panama, says Balladares has done nothing wrong.
Balladares for his part has addressed the matter in an e-mail sent to friends, and which La Prensa says eventually found its way to “a website.”
In the e-mail, Balladares admits that son-in-law Enrique Pretelt and friend and former housing minister Roosevelt Thayer received a license to operate slot machines, but denies any wrongdoing.