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Two sons of former Panama president Martinelli arrested in US

BP_Ricardo Martinelli_221118_48.jpg
Martinelli governed Panama from 2009 to 2014, and was extradited from the US back to his home country in June to face charges of graft and spying on his political foes, as well as allegedly helping to embezzle US$45 million from a government school lunch programme.

[PANAMA CITY] Two sons of former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli, who is accused of collecting bribes worth millions in the wide-ranging Odebrecht scandal, were arrested in the United States, officials said on Wednesday.

"US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested unlawfully present Panamanian nationals Luis Martinelli-Linares and Ricardo Martinelli-Linares during a targeted enforcement operation in Coral Gables, Nov 20," a statement issued to the media said.

"Both men lawfully entered the US; however, their visas were revoked in 2017, and they have been unlawfully present in the US since that time."

Martinelli governed Panama from 2009 to 2014, and was extradited from the US back to his home country in June to face charges of graft and spying on his political foes, as well as allegedly helping to embezzle US$45 million from a government school lunch programme.

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Interpol Red Notices had been issued for both of his sons, requesting their arrests pending extradition.

Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, at the heart of a graft scandal which has ensnared officials across Latin America, agreed to pay Panama fines of US$220 million and cooperate with authorities.

Andre Campos Rabello, Odebrecht's former chief in Panama, had told a court that both Martinelli sons took bribes amounting to US$6 million between 2009 and 2010.

In return, they promised to facilitate the construction of infrastructure projects.

Odebrecht acknowledged having paid US$59 million in bribes between 2010 and 2014 to win the award of public contracts in Panama.

AFP