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    UNIS/CP/652
    1 July 2011

    UNODC Executive Director and President Martinelli Discuss Panama's Role in Curbing Corruption and Trafficking

    VIENNA/PANAMA CITY, 1 July (UN Information Service) - UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov today concluded a two-day visit to Panama, meeting with several high-level officials including President Ricardo Martinelli and Vice-President Juan Carlos Varela. The visit covered several issues ranging from anti-corruption, organized crime and criminal justice, to border control, illicit drugs and human trafficking. An agreement was also signed to support the establishment of a Regional Anti-Corruption Academy in Panama City.

    These topics were also discussed with a range of senior officials including Panama's Deputy Minister of Public Security, Alejandro Garúz; the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Transparency against Corruption, Abigail Benzadón; the Minister of Government, Roxana Méndez; the Director of Customs, Gloria Moreno de López; the Executive Vice President of Operations of the Authority of the Canal of Panama, Manuel Benitez; and the Manager of Canal Security, Antonio Michel.

    Situated at the intersection of North and South America, Panama's unique geographic position has brought both opportunities and challenges to the country. Maritime trade and shipping for instance have provided Panama with economic benefits, yet organized crime can exploit these legal channels through the trafficking of drugs and other illicit items. The Container Control Programme jointly initiated by UNODC and the World Customs Organization works to counter this and has been instrumental in assisting authorities in intercepting illegal shipments of drugs, cultural artefacts and protected environmental goods. Since October 2009, contents from more than 115 containers have been seized in Panama leading to the confiscation of goods worth millions of dollars and the seizure of approximately 1,200 kg of cocaine. Just two weeks ago, Container Control Programme officials at Manzanillo Port seized 174 kg of cocaine hidden inside a container filled with suitcases and lamps en route from the Colon Free Zone to Rotterdam.

    Another key discussion area that Mr. Fedotov covered with Panamanian officials was the country's anti-corruption work. While in Panama City, Mr. Fedotov signed an agreement to support the establishment of a Regional Anti-Corruption Academy for Central America and the Caribbean with US$ 700,000 of Government funding: "I applaud this move by the Government of Panama to establish a Regional Anti-Corruption Academy. Corruption is a devastating and too often unseen crime. Academies such as this offer a training ground to build integrity amongst the country's public servants and ultimately boost the Government's ability to serve its people." The Academy, which will offer specialized courses to equip prosecutors, judges, police officers and other public officials with skills on how to prevent, detect and prosecute corruption in public offices, is supported by UNODC. Panama is also set to host the 2013 Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption - testament to its commitment to promote anti-corruption work locally and internationally.

    Prison reform is another area that UNODC is developing with the Government, and in his meetings the Executive Director praised the reform process which is aligning the country's prison system with international standards.

    Lastly, border security and the role this plays in fighting migrant smuggling and illicit trafficking was covered. Mr. Fedotov discussed the role of Panama's specialized police bodies which have a key place in the fight against the work of organized criminal networks.

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    For further information please contact:

    In Panama City, Panama:

    Troels Vester
    Officer-in-Charge, UNODC Panama
    Telephone: (+507) 314-4980
    Mobile: (+507) 6550-9450
    Email: troels.vester[at]unodc.org

    In Vienna, Austria:

    Alun Jones
    Chief of Communication and Advocacy, UNODC
    Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5726
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5726
    Email: alun.jones[at]unodc.org