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July 3, 2020

Ex-Panama presidents face corruption charges

World

 
July 3, 2020

PANAMA CITY: Panama´s last two presidents, Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, faced questions from prosecutors, each on charges of corruption and money laundering. Prosecutors have charged Martinelli with corruption over the so-called “New Business” case in which a publishing group was allegedly purchased with public money during his 2009-14 term.

Martinelli, 68, was in a combative mood when he arrived at the public prosecutor´s office in Panama City. “They are violating the law, they are violating the Constitution and international treaties. I hope they will do me justice,” the former president told journalists. “They are fabricating these cases against me. It really is a political persecution.

Martinelli was held in pre-trial detention for two years after he was extradited from the United States to face trial for spying on his political foes.

He was acquitted on those charges in 2019. Varela, 56, meanwhile arrived at the special anti-corruption prosecutor´s office to be questioned about alleged illegal donations to his political campaigns from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. “I have come to comply with the subpoena from the public prosecutor´s office and to answer any questions they may have,” said Varela. Varela was previously questioned on Monday. The appearance of the two former presidents “could mean, if there is any optimism, that... no one is above the law,” Carlos Barsallo, head of the Panamanian office of Transparency International, told AFP.