Panama ex-President Martinelli hospitalized, 'stable'

Wednesday, 13 Jun, 2018

US authorities on Monday extradited Panama's ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, placing him on a private flight from Miami, Florida to Panama City.

"On June 11, 2018, pursuant to the extradition treaty between the United States of America and the Republic of Panama, the United States extradited the former President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli to face criminal charges in Panama", the release said. Martinelli had initially contested his extradition in the United States but dropped his appeals.

A handcuffed Martinelli, escorted by US Marshals, greeted reporters gathered to see him off at the airport in the Miami area.

Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli (Congreso de la República del Perú, CC BY 2.0)The former Panamanian president, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal, will stand trial in Panama on four charges related to an illegal wiretapping scheme purportedly orchestrated while he was in office between 2009 and 2014.

Martinelli, 66, is accused of spying on the telephone calls of more than 150 people, including journalists and politicians. Panama qualified for the tournament, which begins on Thursday.

He is under investigation in Panama in about 20 other cases of corruption, but those are not referred to in the extradition request.

The former president was arrested in June 2017 near Miami, where he had lived after leaving his country in 2015.

Panamanian authorities said Martinelli will be held at the Renacer prison outside Panama City.

His return to Panama comes at a time of political turbulence as the country prepares for general elections in May.

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.