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Former Panamanian President Martinelli Faces Corruption Probe

By: PanAm Post Staff - Jan 29, 2015, 3:03 pm

Español Panama’s Supreme Court unanimously voted to launch a corruption probe against former President Ricardo Martinelli on Wednesday, January 29, and appointed a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. The inquiry will focus on claims that Martinelli inflated multimillion-dollar contracts during his time in office (2009-2014).

The Panamanian Supreme Court appointed a special prosecutor to investigate former President Ricardo Martinelli over corruption allegations.
The Panamanian Supreme Court appointed a special prosecutor to investigate former President Ricardo Martinelli over corruption allegations. (World Economic Forum)

The accusation is based on testimony from the former head of the National Assistance Program, Giacomo Tamburelli. He claims Martinelli pressured him into signing inflated contracts worth $45 million to purchase dehydrated food for the program. Tamburelli is now under house arrest.

“Every day, I am facing problems that affect my people, such as as insecurity, inequality, and poverty. It comes the time for a former president to face justice and be held accountable if he did not do things in a proper a way,” said current Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, adding that the Executive office has a duty to report any irregularities to the Judiciary. “I will answer for my own actions, and the former president should answer for his.”

Martinelli, a supermarket tycoon, denied the charges and claims he is the target of a political persecution led by his former ally Varela. The former Panamanian president flew to Guatemala to attend sessions in the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), a regional body headquartered in Guatemala City.

Martinelli reportedly asked Parlacen authorities whether his position granted him special privileges or legislative immunity. His lawyers have argued that as a member of the regional assembly he is immune from prosecution.

When asked if he had plans to return to Panama, Martinelli said: “I will make that decision in the future, but I am not going to go for a trial arranged by Mr. Varela.”

Sources: CTV News, BBC.