Sons of Panama ex-president Martinelli arrested in US


Authorities in the United States said Wednesday that they have arrested the two male sons of Panamanian former President Ricardo Martinelli in Coral Gables , Florida, on immigration charges.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Panamanians Luis Enrique Martinelli-Linares and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli-Linares during an operation in that South Florida city on Tuesday, a spokesman for that law-enforcement agency, Bryan Cox, told EFE.

He said that they had entered the US legally but that their visas were subsequently revoked in 2017 and they have been unlawfully present in the country ever since.

Panama's government in June had asked the US to extradite the Martinelli brothers so they can face charges of receiving bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Martinelli's sons are among 63 people accused by Panamanian authorities in connection with the Odebrecht case.

Odebrecht has admitted as part of a settlement with US authorities that it paid $59 million in bribes to Panamanian officials during Martinelli's 2009-2014 administration.

Martinelli, a 66-year-old business mogul, was extradited to Panama from the US in June.

A hearing resumed Wednesday in Panama City to determine what evidence presented by the prosecution and defense can be used in the upcoming trial of the former Panamanian president, who is accused of spying on more than 100 opposition figures during his five-year tenure.

Martinelli says he is being politically persecuted by Panama's current head of state, Juan Carlos Varela, who had previously served as his vice president.

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