Two former Panama presidents to face graft trial
Panama City, Panama — A Panama court has ordered former presidents Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela to stand trial on charges of laundering money from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, a court document showed Tuesday.
Judge Baloisa Marquines opened a criminal case against the two former leaders for crimes “against the economic order in the form of money laundering,” read the trial summons.
The two men, who collectively led Panama between 2009 and 2019, will be tried alongside 34 others, including five former ministers.
Two of Martinelli’s sons — who are both imprisoned in the United States after pleading guilty to receiving $28 million from Odebrecht — will also be tried.
The trial will run from August 1-18, 2023.
Prosecutors accuse Martinelli and Varela of using front companies and foreign bank accounts to receive funds from Odebrecht between 2008 and 2014.
In 2016, Odebrecht pled guilty in a Brooklyn court to paying more than $788 million in bribes to government officials and political parties, mainly in Latin America, to win infrastructure contracts.
The Brazilian company admitted paying bribes worth $59 million in Panama in exchange for contracts to build public works.
Odebrecht built Panama’s two metro lines, expanded Tocumen International Airport, and constructed Panama City’s ring road around its historic old quarter, among other multimillion-dollar projects.
According to the Public Prosecutor’s office, the company overbilled the Panamanian government for some of the projects.
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