The US implicates the former president of Panama in acts of corruption

The US implicates the former president of Panama in acts of corruption

The United States on Wednesday implicated former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in acts of “significant” corruption by saying he accepted bribes in exchange for project contracts during his administration.

The same day, two of the ex-president’s sons returned to their country after serving a sentence in New York for laundering millions of dollars in bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

Martinelli, 70, who aspires to run again as a presidential candidate in 2024, and immediate family members will not be able to enter the United States, reported a statement from the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, released by the US embassy in Panama.

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

Although it does not mention it, the US government would be referring to the scandal of the multi-million dollar bribes paid by Odebrecht in Panama during the Martinelli administration, who governed from 2009 to 2014.

The bribery plot also affected politicians and businessmen from 12 countries in Latin America and Africa.

The former Panamanian president did not immediately react to the US measure.

On the same day, his sons Luis Enrique and Ricardo Martinelli Linares arrived in Panama at night after being deported from the United States. The return generates a lot of attention in Panama because they must face in August along with 34 other people —including their father and also former president Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019)— a trial for money laundering for the Odebrecht case and another at the national level. known as “Blue Apple” for the alleged payment of multi-million dollar bribes.

“From the handover of the Martinelli brothers to the Panamanian authorities, it is up to the Panamanian justice system to determine the outcome of the cases that are followed in Panama,” the US embassy added in another press release.

The brothers paid a bond of about 14 million dollars for the two corruption cases to avoid being arrested upon arrival in Panama. They were released Tuesday after serving a three-year sentence imposed on them in May 2022 by a court in the Eastern District of Brooklyn, New York, for conspiring to launder approximately $28 million that Odebrecht paid in bribes to a high-ranking official in Panama. that he is a close relative of the defendants, but was not identified by prosecutors.

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

According to investigations, the Brazilian construction giant paid at least $59 million in bribes to access state contracts or other benefits in Panama between 2010 and 2014.

Former President Martinelli denies that he received bribes and believes that the investigation was rigged by prosecutors.

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Written by Editor TLN

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