Latin America

Former Panama President Martinelli extradited from US

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Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli has been extradited from the United States to his home country to face charges of corruption and illegal wiretapping.

Mr Martinelli, 66, was arrested a year ago in Miami, Florida.

He has been accused of using public funds to monitor the phone calls of more than 150 people, including politicians and journalists.

Mr Martinelli says he is the victim of a political vendetta.

He governed the Central American nation from 2009 to 2014.

In 2015, Panama's Supreme Court ordered Mr Martinelli's arrest over accusations that he used public funds to illegally spy on more than 150 prominent people.

He flew to the US just days before the court launched a corruption investigation against him.

Among the alleged victims of the wiretaps were high-ranking members of the opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party, as well as lawmaker Jose Luis Varela, who is the brother of current President Juan Carlos Varela.

They allege that their phones were tapped and that the administration of Mr Martinelli prepared dossiers against them containing intimate information.

Mr Martinelli was detained and taken into US federal custody near his home in Coral Gables, Florida, in June 2017 after Panama issued an extradition request.

He applied for political asylum, saying the allegations against him were part of a political vendetta, and his legal team launched a series of appeals against the extradition.

The US Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan, approved the Panamanian government extradition request on Friday.

Mr Martinelli is being sent to the same prison where Panama's former military leader, General Manuel Noriega, spent the last years of his life.

General Noriega died in May last year, aged 83, after serving time in prison in the US and Panama for drug-trafficking, money laundering and racketeering.

Original Article



BBC


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