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Panama ex-president convicted for money laundering; gets about 11 years



Panama’s former president (2009-2014) Ricardo Martinelli speaks during a press conference at the Realizando Metas party headquarters in Panama City, on June 27, 2023. – The former Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, who aspires to return to power in 2024 despite having pending cases with the justice system, was sentenced to almost 11 years in prison for money laundering during his term in office, the judicial body reported on Tuesday. (Photo by Roberto CISNEROS / AFP)


Panama’s ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, who had his eye on another run for office in 2024, has been sentenced to almost 11 years in prison for money laundering, according to a court ruling made public Tuesday.

Prosecutors had sought a 12-year term for 71-year-old Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014, on charges that he used illegally-acquired state funds to buy a majority share in a publishing house in 2010.

According to the charge sheet, Martinelli and others used a series of front companies to siphon off almost $44 million from state infrastructure contracts during his presidency.

Martinelli then used part of that money to buy a controlling stake in the Editora Panama America media company, whose newspapers adopted an editorial line that promoted his interests.

He has repeatedly denied the charges, claiming he was the victim of political persecution to thwart his presidential bid in elections next year.

According to the ruling dated July 17, Martinelli was sentenced to 128 months imprisonment and a fine of $19 million.

The ex-president is accused in a separate case of laundering money from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. That case goes to trial in August.

In 2016, Odebrecht pled guilty in a US court to paying more than $788 million in bribes to government officials and political parties, mainly in Latin America, to win infrastructure contracts.

The Brazilian company admitted paying bribes worth $59 million in Panama in exchange for public works contracts.

Martinelli has been investigated for multiple corruption scandals since leaving office. In 2021, he was acquitted of charges of espionage and embezzlement of public funds.

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