May 7, 2015 / 10:34 PM / 2 years ago

Panama top court judge to be probed on corruption, abuse accusations

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama will investigate a Supreme Court judge on suspicion of selling judicial decisions and abuse of minors, a commission in the National Assembly decided on Thursday, in the country’s latest high-profile scandal.

The Credentials Commission found that there were grounds for a case against judge Victor Benavides, who was accused by his ex-driver and bodyguard, Vicente Caballero, of engaging in sexual acts with children and receiving envelopes of cash in return for legal help.

“With eight votes in favor and one abstention, we have decided to admit the case against justice Benavides,” said Luis Barria, president of the Credentials Commission.

Caballero is currently serving a 15 year sentence for kidnapping his former boss’ mother.

Under Panamanian law, supreme court judges can only be investigated by members of the country’s Congress.

The commission must now decide whether Caballero’s accusations are sound enough for the case against Benavides to be heard on the floor of the national assembly.

Benavides is the second supreme court judge to be investigated by lawmakers. In February, the former chief justice of the court, Alejandro Moncada, was sentenced to five years in prison for illicit enrichment and falsifying documents.

Last month, Panama’s election authority said former President Ricardo Martinelli would no longer be immune from prosecution, paving the way for the country’s top court to investigate alleged corruption cases during his time in office.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and David Gregorio

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