[JURIST] Former president of the Supreme Court of Panama [official website, in Spanish], Alejandro Moncada, pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of falsifying documents and illicit enrichment. Panama officials suspended [JURIST report] Moncada in October over corruption charges and accusations that he profited from his ties with former president Ricardo Martinelli. Moncada denied any wrongdoing and also claimed to be a victim of Martinelli’s political foe and successor Juan Carlos Varela. According to Moncada’s defense lawyers, he struck a deal and pleaded guilty because of his declining health. Moncada was sentenced to serve a five-year jail term. It is still unclear whether this time will be served in prison or under house arrest.
Moncada’s suspension marked the first time in 24 years that a high court judge was removed from the bench. Documents emerged that Moncada had paid mostly cash for two luxury apartments worth over USD $1.7 million, properties that seem incompatible with his judicial salary. Lawmakers leading an impeachment probe ruled that Moncada’s assets be temporarily frozen [La Prensa report, in Spanish] and his passport be turned in as he remain confined to his residence.