PANAMA’S authoritarian ex-president Ricardo Martinelli. who has boasted that he would return to Panama for a triumphal tour of the country will instead be arriving under escort to face charges that if proven could earn him 20 years in jail, even allowing for the shaky foundations of Panama’s Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the CD Party he created to achieve the presidency is split, it’s last presidential candidate behind bars and members disappearing as the “Shoes of the People” password no longer gives access to the pickings in the corruption cave.
On Thursday, August 31 in a 93 page ruling US Federal Judge Edwin G. Torres in a South Florida District Court granted Martinelli’s extradition to be tried for illegal surveillance of some 150 political opponents, journalists, lawyers and businessmen and his mistress, and for embezzlement.
Martinelli has been detained since June 12, despite requests for bail of release and other writs filed by his legal defense in the United States, headed by lawyer Marcos Daniel Jiménez.
The US Attorney’s Office said the former president had been a “chief” director of the alleged illegal interceptions between 2012 and 2014, during his administration. The defense had argued that illegal evidence has been presented within the extradition process.
Panama’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Panama requested Martinelli’s extradition On September 28, 2016 in response to a request from the Supreme Court after he failed to appear for a court hearing.
Martinelli’s two sons are on an Interpol red alert list in connection with the Odebrecht bribery scandal. Authorities have seized $22 million from Swiss and Andorran bank accounts, and taken possession of a luxury apartment in Madrid and a helicopter in Mexico.
His former private secretary, Adolfo “Chichi” de Obarrio is also on the run, charged with embezzlement. De Obarrio’s mother is in preventive detention in Panama.
During earlier Miami hearings, Martinelli offered to pay a bond of $10 million. which was turned down as the Judge considered the supermarket billionaire a flight risk.
When he will be brought back to Panama is uncertain. If he opts for a fast exit from his cell it could be measured in weeks. If his lawyers play the delaying game he could remain in the detention center where he is losing weight for months
What is assured is that he won’t be returning home in the private jet he has used to whisk other fleeing members of his inner circle to what was perceived as the safety of the United States.
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