June 25, 2008
Legal Battles Tie Up Money Left for Poor Children in Panama
A gift of tens of millions of dollars to a foundation to help needy children in Panama has been tied up in disputes involving over 20 law firms, the Panamanian courts, and the donor’s surviving family, reports The New York Times. The donation — from the will of Wilson C. Lucom, who died two years ago at the age of 88 — is the bulk of his estate.
“This is all about greed,” said Hector Avila, an advocate for needy children in Panama, who survived a shooting within a week of a protest he led in May to push the court to honor Mr. Lucom’s gift.
Panamanian courts have so far expressed support for the will, but critics remain wary of potential corruption. “If you ask me if I expect to win in light of all the corruption I’ve seen, I don’t expect to win it,” said Richard S. Lehman, a longtime lawyer to Mr. Lucom who is now caught in the middle of the battle and who has been suspended by a Panamanian judge as the executor of the will.
Mr. Lucom’s widow, Hilda Lucom, 84, who received a $20,000 monthly pension and the use of his artwork and furniture, is fighting for his will to be dismissed. “He never talked to me about poor children,” said Ms. Lucom, who added in a court deposition, “He didn’t like children.”
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