Panama’s former president Ricardo Martinelli was sentenced on Tuesday to over 10 years in prison for money laundering, a decision which threatens his fresh presidential bid in next year’s election.
Martinelli, 71, was sentenced to 128 months in prison and ordered to pay a hefty $19.2 million (approximately €17.11 million) fine over a corruption case known locally as “New Business.”
What do we know about the case?
Martinelli is accused of complicity in a scheme which used public funds to buy a media conglomerate where he held a majority stake.
The former president maintained his innocence, and his lawyer stressed the sentence will be appealed.
“We all know they want to convict me out of political interest,” Martinelli said in a video. “I have no ties to illicit funds.”
Legally speaking, Tuesday’s court ruling does not definitively end Martinelli’s presidential bid, his lawyer said.
However, if the verdict is upheld, he would be banned from competing in the race.
Corruption accusations surround Martinelli
Martinelli, who ruled Panama from 2009 until 2014, is also being pursued in connection with other corruption accusations.
He faces money laundering charges for his alleged involvement in a massive bribery scandal involving public officials across Latin America. The case is dubbed Odebrecht, the name of the Brazilian construction giant which was hired to carry out construction work in Panama.
His two sons had faced prison time in Guatemala and the US for money laundering in a case linked to Odebrecht. They returned to Panama earlier this year.
In January, the US barred the former president and his two sons from entering the country. He was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for unduly awarding government contracts during his tenure.
( Source DW)