PANAMA (HPD) – The Panamanian authorities were waiting for the return of the children of former President Ricardo Martinelli after serving a sentence in the United States for laundering millions of dollars in bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, one of the largest cases of corruption that splashed politicians and businessmen in Latin America.
Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares would be deported to the country on Wednesday night, an official from Panama’s National Immigration Service informed of the matter but was not authorized to speak officially to The Associated Press.
The return of the Martinelli brothers generates strong attention in Panama because they must face in August together with 34 other people -including their father and former president Martinelli (2009-2014) and also former president Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019)- a trial for money laundering in the Odebrecht case and another locally known as “Blue Apple” for the alleged payment of multimillion-dollar bribes.
The Central American nation of just over four million inhabitants also entered its pre-election year with a view to the general elections of May 2024, in which former President Martinelli aspires to participate.
The Attorney General of Panama, Javier Caraballo, told reporters the day before that his institution has “high expectations” for the return of the Martinelli brothers and that they face “criminal responsibility” for their actions.
The brothers paid a bond of around 14 million dollars for the two corruption cases to avoid being arrested upon arrival in Panama. They were released on Tuesday after serving a three-year sentence imposed on them in May 2022 by a court for the Eastern District of Brooklyn, New York, for conspiring to launder approximately $28 million that Odebrecht paid in bribes to a high-ranking official in Panama. that he is a close relative of the defendants, but was not identified by prosecutors.
The Martinellis were detained in Guatemala for 23 months before being extradited at the request of the United States between November and December 2021.
According to the investigations, the Brazilian construction giant paid at least 59 million dollars in bribes to access state contracts or other benefits in Panama between 2010 and 2014 during the Martinelli government, who denies that he received bribes and He believes that the investigation was rigged by prosecutors. Another 12 countries in Latin America and Africa were also affected by the corruption scheme.
Associated Press writer in Panama Kathia Martinez contributed to this story.