Thursday, February 9, 2023

US indicts former Panamanian president on corruption charges

PANAMA ( Associated Press) – The United States on Wednesday implicated former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in acts of “significant” corruption, saying he accepted bribes in exchange for contracts for projects during his government, on the same day that the former president Two sons returned to the country after serving sentences in New York for laundering multimillion-dollar bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

Because of the indictment, the 70-year-old former Panamanian leader, who seeks to run again as a presidential candidate in the May 2024 general elections, and immediate family members will not be able to enter the United States, said a statement. According to a release by the US Embassy in Panama from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken said, “Accepting bribes in exchange for contracts for government projects undermines the integrity of Panama’s democratic institutions and promotes corruption and a perception of impunity.”

Although it does not mention it, the US government may have been referring to the multimillion-dollar bribery scandal paid by Odebrecht in Panama during the Martinelli administration that ruled between 2009 and 2014. Countries in Latin America and Africa.

On the same day, the sons of former President Luis Enrique and Ricardo Martinelli Linares arrived in exile from the United States at night. The return of the Martinelli brothers attracts a lot of attention in Panama as they are to face in August, along with 34 other people – including their father and former President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) – a money laundering trial in the Odebrecht case. and another locally known as the “Blue Apple” for alleged multimillion-dollar bribe payments.

The Central American nation of more than four million residents also entered its pre-election year with a view to next year’s elections, in which former President Martinelli is seeking to participate.

Panama’s attorney general, Javier Caraballo, told reporters a day earlier that his institution had “high hopes” for the return of the Martinelli brothers and that they face “criminal responsibility” for their actions.

To avoid arrest upon arrival in Panama, the brothers paid a bond of approximately $14 million for two counts of corruption. He was released on Tuesday after serving a three-year sentence imposed on him by a court in the Eastern District of Brooklyn in New York in May 2022. Odebrecht paid nearly $28 in bribes to a high-ranking official in Panama. million that he is a close relative of the defendants, but he was not identified by prosecutors.

Martinellis was detained in Guatemala for 23 months before being extradited at the request of the United States between November and December 2021.

The Brazilian construction giant paid at least $59 million in bribes to access state contracts or other benefits in Panama between 2010 and 2014 during the Martinelli government, according to the investigation, which it denies. He received bribes and believes the investigation was rigged by prosecutors. , Another 12 countries in Latin America and Africa were also affected by the corruption scheme.


Associated Press writer Kathia Martinez in Panama contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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