By The Star Staff
Judge Rafael Taboas determined cause for arrest on Thursday against Citizen Victory Movement (MVC by its Spanish initials) Rep. Mariana Nogales Molinelli on two of the 24 charges filed by the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel (OPFEI).
The judge found evidence in charges of perjury and ideological falsehood for omissions in a Government Ethics Office report. Those accusations, amended by the judge, focus on Nogales’ participation in the Ocean Front Villas corporation until 2021.
“In these two complaints, cause is determined; in the rest, no,” the judge stated.
Complaints against Ocean Front Villas and Rita Molinelli Freytes, the lawmaker’s mother, were not filed.
The judicial process, which began at 9 a.m., lasted until after noon, with the legislator’s MVC supporters and political colleagues present. Nogales’ lawyer, José Andréu Fuentes, contended that the accusation is politically motivated, alleging that the charges arise from complaints by politicians from the New Progressive Party. Andréu Fuentes argued that Nogales had no responsibility for the income generated by the properties in question, since they operated under a usufruct contract in favor of her mother.
On the other hand, special prosecutors Ramón Mendoza and Zulma Fuster focused their arguments on the evidence presented, including checks and expert testimony, alleging an intentional omission of income and presentation of false returns by Nogales in relation to Ocean Front Villas. Mendoza criticized the defense’s position, and defended the integrity of the institutions involved in the investigation.
Andréu Fuentes said in a written communication that “Erroneous information has been spread, which deserves clarification to respond to the truth.”
“Judge Taboas’ determination is a major defeat for the FEI which, in turn, ratifies the decision of the first hearing in Rule 6, in which all charges were dismissed and only two of the 61 charges that were submitted by the FEI then amended,” the lawyer said. “These two amended charges are the ones that were determined today to prevail and against which we will defend our client on her day in Court, as she deserves.”
Ricardo Prieto García, a lawyer for Rita Molinelli, said: “It is unfair that this persecution is being carried out against a citizen who is not a public servant and who has not committed any crime, such as has been demonstrated for the second time in Court.”
Attorney Frank Torres Vida, representing Ocean Front Villas, emphasized that “[y]ou cannot persecute people or companies that operate in compliance with the law just because they are the family of a public servant against whom there is an evidently political agenda.”
“That is inadmissible and we cannot allow it because it is contrary to the law,” he said.
Rep. Ángel Matos García, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said regarding the judge’s determination: “Given the determination of the cause for arrest against Representative Nogales Molinelli, the Ethics Committee is ready to attend to any referral related to this case.”