DR sells US$1.2 billion in sovereign bonds
Social security hospitals integrated to general medical system
Flamingos and white necked crows seized on Samaná road
JAD proposal for mountain farms
Curacao and Dutch Chamber sign agreement to spur more business
Conep calls for end to bribes and overvaluations as way to doing business
All attention on Sunday march against impunity
IDEM asks: Who benefited from Odebrecht graft? Were taxes paid?
Former minister of public works Victor Díaz Rúa questioned by Attorney General in Odebrecht case
Eduardo Estrella calls for financial and technical audit to public works
The Embraer case back in the spotlight
La Dolcerie restaurant accused of tax evasion
Body of 70-year old German found in Santiago
Cándido Bidó painting inspires national dress for Sal García in Miss Universe
Long lines to buy playoff baseball games
Aguilas win game 1 of the playoffs
15th Caribbean Laser Regatta in Cabarete
Tony Dize at Hard Rock Live

DR sells US$1.2 billion in sovereign bonds
Minister of Hacienda Donald Guerrero Ortiz announced the successful placement of Dominican sovereign bonds for the amount of US$1.2 billion as authorized by the National Budget Law 690-16. The new 10-year bonds will yield 5.95%.

Guerrero said that the bonds were sold in three hours and the total demand was US$2.9 billion. He said 180 orders were received from investors in several countries.

The transactions were handled by J.P. Morgan and Banreservas as co-manager.


Social security hospitals integrated to general medical system
The 40 primary care clinics and 26 hospitals that operated under the Dominican Social Security Institute (IDSS) are now integrated into the National Public Health System. The move consolidates all public medical centers now under the same administration.

Flamingos and white-necked crows seized on Samaná road
The Ministry of the Environment today reported that it seized four flamingos and two white-necked crows that were illegally exhibited at the Parador Francisco on the Samaná highway at Km 87. The Ministry said that the Parador was violating the law that protects and regulates the sale of threatened species. The birds were taken to the National Zoo in Santo Domingo.

The owner of Parador Francisco said he purchased the birds for RD$100,000 from a business located on Av. 27 de Febrero almost corner Av. Máximo Gómez.

The Ministry of Environment said the country is a signatory of CITEs Convention that protects endangered species. The flamingos (phonicopterus rubers) and white-necked crows (corvus leucognahalus) are threatened species and protected by the agreement.


JAD proposal for mountain farms
Members of the board of the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD) met on Thursday, 19 January 2017, with Environment Minister Francisco Domínguez Brito to discuss proposals for farms located in mountain areas.

The JAD sought to present a framework for public policies for the adequate development of cattle ranching and farming in the mountainous areas. Speaking for the JAD, Osmar Benítez, executive president of the JAD, said that there is the need to build a public-private alliance to develop best agricultural practices in mountainous terrain so that potential farming systems are not in conflict with environmental conservation. The proposal would establish protocols for land use and environmental impact studies that would take into account a number of factors, including potential climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Likewise, JAD’s proposal focuses introducing strategies to arrest the degradation of mountainous areas, improving and diversifying agroforestry in river basins, promoting sustainable management of natural resources and strengthening the administration of protected areas. The plan also calls for improvement and investment in aspects such as management of solid wastes, clean energy and the reduction of chemical contamination.
Benítez pointed out: “The Dominican Republic has 37 mountain regions distributed in the Central, Septentrional and Oriental mountain ranges and in the Bahoruco and Neiba mountains. Our country has a great farming tradition and potential, therefore, it is important to develop proposals for the sustainable agricultural use of these mountainous areas.”

Participating was the board of the JAD, including the president of the organization Wilfredo Cabrera, Ulises de Beras and Ricardo Barceló of the Asociación Dominicana de Hacendados y Agricultores (ADHA), Alexis Alonso, president of the Patronato Nacional de Ganaderos among others. 


Curacao and Dutch Chamber sign agreement to spur more business
The Association of Small and Medium-sized Businesses in Curacao (ADECK) signed an agreement with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, 17 January 2017. The agreement was signed at the Dominican consulate in Curacao in the presence of Dominican consul Francisco Francisco. The entities agreed to promote business and investment in both countries.

The agreement calls for the carrying out of market studies, coordinating activities that facilitate bilateral economic, commercial, technological, cultural and tourism projects.

Taina Mora, president of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, signed for the Dominican Republic and the president of ADECK Wilbert Geertruida for Curacao.


Conep calls for end to bribes and overvaluations as way to doing business 
The National Business Council (Conep) that gathers the 47 leading business and industry organizations called for the Attorney General to firmly act in establishing responsibilities amongst companies and government in the Odebrecht corruption scandal. In a press release, Conep says the Odebrecht case, described as one of the greatest corruption scandals of all times in the Dominican Republic, brings to the open the culture of bribes and the weakness of Dominican institutions. 

Conep says the Odebrecht corruption case is an opportunity for the present authorities to demonstrate their commitment to the strengthening of institutions if the judiciary acts so that a precedent is set to put an end to the today common unfair business practices of bribes and overvaluations to secure public works. 

The first work carried out by Odebrecht was the Northwest aqueduct in 2000. 


All attention on Sunday march against impunity
Given all the media attention to government corruption scandals, large attendance is expected at a march against impunity called for Sunday, 22 January 2017, from 10 AM to noon. The protest that is focused on a call for an end to impunity related to large scale bribery and overpricing of public works will begin at the intersection of Av. Máximo Gómez and Av. 27 de Febrero and end in front of the Parque Independencia off Calle Palo Hincado.
The call to peacefully protest has received the support of leading civil society and church organizations. 

In the past, there have been several marches that have garnered a large response, including marches held to protest the 4% for education (that resulted in government increasing taxes and taking on loans to comply with the additional funds). Also the forming of human chains in front of the OISOE was credited for putting pressure on the government organization known for overpricing and other corrupt practices. Finally, popular, peaceful demonstrations rallied support for Loma Miranda and the halt to the cement plant construction in Los Haitises. 


IDEM asks: Who benefited from Odebrecht graft? Were taxes paid?
Civil society organizations grouped under the Democratic Institutions Initiative (IDEM) said on Thursday, 19 January 2017, urged that the judicial branch, Congress and other regulatory agencies of the government investigate all contracts signed and executed by the Brazilian firm in the country, given the generalized practice of bribes. IDEM says that the authorities should gather evidence to apply sanctions.

“Since the existence of bribes for at least US$92 million has already been admitted to by Odebrecht before the US courts, there is no need for further proof of fraud or misconduct, but rather the public demands to know who were the intermediaries and final recipients of those funds, and what is the total extent of the damage caused to the country,” stated the organizations grouped into IDEM.

IDEM insists that Odebrecht should reimburse the government the equivalent to two times the amount of bribes, or US$184 million. IDEM says that overvaluations need to be assessed for each contract and the US$162 million in profits that Odebrecht has already confessed to having received as a result of the unscrupulous sales practice must be paid back to the government. 

“The Dominican state should demand reimbursement of at least US$346 million plus the additional overvaluations that need to be quantified by experts and the financial cost of those values,” says IDEM.

IDEM also said that the intent to disguise the bribes as professional fees received by the commercial representative of Odebrecht obliges the authorities to identify the bank accounts to which these funds were credited and track all transactions associated with these accounts. In addition, IDEM says that it should be determined if these transactions were reported to the Tax Agency (DGII) and if the corresponding taxes were paid.

IDEM says that the local authorities should follow the example of other countries, such as Colombia, where there have already been consequences. IDEM understands an independent audit should be conducted to analyze the tenders and the execution processes of the works. Special attention should be paid to determine any price variations during the implementation of the projects.

IDEM points out that this is the second bribery scandal ruled upon by the US judiciary. The previous scandal, involving the purchase of the Embraer Super Tucano aircraft, has not yet been resolved nor has the Dominican participation been clarified.

IDEM understands the Odebrecht case should be a starting point for a joint effort of the government and civil society to end the culture of corruption and impunity that pervades public procurement practices and many other activities in the country.


Former minister of public works Victor Díaz Rúa questioned by Attorney General in Odebrecht case
The Minister of Public Works during the President Leonel Fernández administration was interrogated by Attorney General Jean-Alain Rodríguez on Thursday, 19 January 2017, as part of investigations into the Odebrecht bribery and overvaluations case. The investigations began once the US Justice announced publicly that Odebrecht had secured contracts through illicit payments to government officials. Previously, a case that would have looked into corruption at the Ministry of Public Works under Díaz Rúa failed to move in the Dominican judiciary and was eventually closed.

Most of the contracts carried out by Odebrecht in the Dominican Republic were signed during the governments of former President Leonel Fernández (2004-2008 and 2008-2016). Diario Libre pointed out in a report that Víctor Díaz Rúa signed 7 of the 17 public works contracts, more than any other government official.


Eduardo Estrella calls for financial and technical audit to public works
Former minister of public works turned politician, Eduardo Estrella, says he will participate in the civil society-organized march for an end to impunity for administrative corruption. At the same time, he recommended the Attorney General conduct a financial and technical audit for public works projects costing more than US$100 million, starting with the Odebrecht bribery scandal.

Estrella, who is the president of the Partido Dominicanos por el Cambio (DxC), said the Attorney General should contract qualified and independent experts to perform the audits and should start with projects built by Odebrecht, whose company’s officials have already confessed using bribes.

“If the Attorney General really wants to reach the bottom of this scandal, and fulfill the role the law attributes to him, he should start with an in depth investigation that includes a financial and technical audit to unmask all those who were part of this great robbery - because failing that, all the rest is pure circus,” he said.

He urged in depth investigations into the works, including Punta Catalina power plant, the studies and designs, the volumes executed, analysis of costs, to determine the unit prices for the works carried out by Odebrecht and other companies.

Estrella speculated that most of the large contracts for the construction of hospitals, aqueducts, highways and dams carried out in the past 20 years would not pass a financial and technical audit.

He said the government and the ruling PLD party should not hide the names of the government officials involved in the scandal from the Dominican people. He said that he that both bribes and overpricing are equally damaging. He said impunity is the main reason for the lack of order and institutional accountability that prevail in the country because people see there is no punishment for those involved in corruption.

Estrella called for support to the “March to put an end to Impunity” called by civil society organizations for Sunday, 22 January 2017, starting at Av. 27 de Febrero and Av. Máximo Gómez to the Independence Park.   


The Embraer case back in the spotlight 
A US Justice Department settlement with Embraer is once again a popular subject in the Dominican media, as the press highlighted similarities between the Embraer and Odebrecht cases. Both Embraer and Odebrecht are large Brazilian companies. 

More than three months after news of the settlement was released in the United States, the local press has begun to report that Brazilian firm Embraer agreed to pay more than US$107 million to the United States to resolve the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges. In addition, parallel rulings of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Brazilian authorities totaling US$97 million in fines were also announced in October 2016.

The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer agreed to the settlement, estimated to be more than US$107 million,that detailed criminal charges against the company, including connections with schemes involving the bribery of government officials in the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia and Mozambique. Embraer also had to pay millions of dollars in fees and fees in a case in India in which the company falsely recorded payments via a sham agency agreement.

The US Justice Department revealed that in 2008, Embraer paid US$3.52 million to an influential government official in the Dominican Republic via a false agency agreement to secure a contract to sell the Dominican Air Force eight military aircraft for approximately US$92 million.

With the cooperation of U.S. authorities, Brazilian authorities have charged 11 individuals for their alleged involvement in Embraer’s misconduct in the Dominican Republic.

The FBI’s Miami Field Office investigated the case.  Senior Trial Attorney Jason Linder and Trial Attorney John-Alex Romano of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case.

In the case, Air Force colonel Carlos Piccini Núnez is under pre-trial custody, and former Minister of Defense Pedro Rafael Peña Antonio was released with the obligation to be available for the judiciary. Businessmen Daniel Aquino Mendez and Daniel Aquino Hernández have electronic bracelets and impediment to leave the country.


La Dolcerie restaurant accused of tax evasion
The Tax Agency (DGII) announced it has closed the popular La Dolcerie restaurant located at Calle Rafael Augusto Sánchez after employees were accused issuing invoices without the corresponding tax number.
As reported in El Caribe, Gelen Donez, in charge of accounting at the restaurant, denied the charge.

In addition to the restaurant located in the Piantini neighborhood, La Dolcerie has a catering business and an events location.


Body of 70-year old German found in Santiago
The Police arrested 52-year old Fernando Bienvenido Baez Belliard and his son Leonardo García Báez Belliard suspected to be involved in the murder of a German citizen who had supposedly been kidnapped with his spouse in Sosúa, Puerto Plata. Investigations revealed Báez Belliard was in a relationship with 45-year old Maria Núñez, wife of the deceased.

The body of 70-year old Frank Joachim Elbert was found folded in plastic bags in a house in the Los Ciruelitos sector where Báez Belliard lives in Santiago. The case is investigated by officers of the Department for Criminal Investigations (Dicrim) of the Police together with regional prosecutors.

It had been reported that the German had been kidnapped by unknown persons on Friday, 13 January 2017 in the evening, with his spouse, María Núñez, who later said she was let go in Imbert, south of Puerto Plata. The Police suspect the crime could be related to property owned by the victim in Loma Blanca, Sosúa.

Núnez told prosecutors that on Friday, 13 January three armed men penetrated their home and kidnapped them both.


Cándido Bidó painting inspires national dress for Sal García in Miss Universe
Leonel Lirio has designed a dress named “Charmer of the Birds” decorated with birds and blue and orange leaves inspired on the work by the late Dominican artist Cándido Bidó. The headdress, the props and complements were created by Luis Rivas and Egret Dominicana was responsible for the printing of the textiles for the dress. Leonel Lirio said that Maribel Peña, of Islander Print, was responsible for hand-painting the apron that Miss Dominican Republic will wear during the Miss Universe 2017 contest.

Leonel Lirio said that his atelier staff spent more than 200 hours to assemble the costume.


Long lines to buy playoff baseball games
While regular season and round robin tickets were sold online, the tickets for the finals of the Dominican Winter Baseball Championship will only be sold at the Quisqueya and Cibao stadium box offices. Ticket sales begin in the morning of the day before the game, resulting in long lines as people cue to purchase entrances to the championship series. Many of the tickets are later resold by scalpers.

This year, the lines are even longer given that the two most popular teams – Aguilas Cibaeñas and Tigres del Licey – have made the finals.


Aguilas win game 1 of the playoffs
A full house of Aguilas Cibaeñas fans enjoyed the first win of the nine-game series (first to win five games wins) to grab the Dominican Winter Professional Baseball Championship. The Aguilas Cibaeñas defeated the Tigres del Licey 4-3. 

The series continues today at the Quisqueya stadium at 7:30pm.

The winner of the championship will represent the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Series.

See the games schedule at: http://www.lidom.com/home/calendario/


15th Caribbean Laser Regatta in Cabarete
The 15th Caribbean Laser Midwinter Regatta is happening in Cabarete this weekend, 20-22 January 2017. 25 competitors from Argentina, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Holland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands Antilles and the United States are competing off the waters of Cabarete Beach in Puerto Plata. The competition is set for Sunday, 22 January 2017 at Cabarete Beach. The regatta has the backing of the Dominican Sailing Federation.

Competing for the Dominican Republic are Jorge Abreu of Palmar de Ocoa, Eduardo Verdeja for the Santo Domingo Domingo Yacht Club and Ari Barshi from Cabarete. 


Tony Dize at Hard Rock Live
Romantic song singer Tony Dize is booked for a concert at the Hard Rock Live at Blue Mall for 14 February 2017.
The Puerto Rican singer will be delighting his fans with his best hits such as:  “El Doctorado”, “Solos”, “Mi Amor es Pobre”, “Permítame”, “Si te Llego a Perder”, “Prometo Olvidarte”, “Límite de la locura”, “Duele el amor”, “Ruleta Rusa”, among others.
Tony Dize is known for his crossover with reggaetton, cumbia, Latin pop, merengue and romantic songs. 

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