Panama’s ex-president to be heard over money laundering scheme

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will face a preliminary hearing for his alleged role in the ‘New Business’ money laundering scheme, linked to the purchase of a Panamanian media outlet, the country’s judiciary reported In Monday.

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli faces open corruption investigations for his alleged roles in the “New Business” money laundering scheme and the Odebrecht bribery scheme. (Photo: World Economic Forum, Flickr, license) Martinelli, a banker-turned-politician who ruled the Central American nation between 2009 and 2014, is suspected of improperly embezzling public funds in the purchase of media conglomerate Grupo Editorial Epasa when he was president as part of of the so-called “New Business” affair.

The program involves 25 others.

The “New Business” case dates back to 2017, when the Public Prosecutor’s Office began investigating the 2010 purchase by Grupo Editorial Epasa, allegedly with public funds.

According to the investigation, the funds needed for the purchase, around $43.9 million, were laundered through a dozen banks in Switzerland, China and the United States, SwissInfo reported.

According to Monday’s statement, the former president is due for a preliminary hearing on October 31, and alternatively on November 29.

The court also ordered the trial of 20 other people for their alleged role in the same money laundering scheme, setting the date for a full hearing in April 2023.

The former president is facing another corruption investigation over his role in a scheme involving bribes paid by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

His two sons were sentenced in a US court in May this year to three years each for laundering $28 million from bribes paid by the same Brazilian construction company.

To receive bribes, the Martinelli brothers set up offshore bank accounts and shell companies during their father’s presidency.

The Odebrecht affair is one of the largest corruption cases ever documented in Latin America, covering a period of 30 years and 12 countries.

Martinelli’s successor, Juan Carlos Varela, who served between 2014 and 2019, is also believed to have accepted donations from the construction company through his party.

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