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Arrest of ex-Panamanian president in US must lead to extradition and full-scale corruption trial

Transparency International today welcomed the news that the former President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli has finally been arrested in the United States and will presumably face an extradition hearing following a request made by the Panamanian government more than nine months ago.

“Even though Ricardo Martinelli’s arrest is linked to illegal wire-tapping and related corruption charges, he must be held to account for all the corruption that occurred during his time in office. This is one of the world's emblematic cases of grand corruption,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

The Panamanian authorities must do all they can to bring additional charges against Martinelli, including on the dozen cases of alleged grand corruption that name Martinelli directly.

The Panamanian government must aid and collaborate with the prosecutors’ investigations to unearth the illegal schemes that ravaged the country. Panama should also cooperate further with US authorities, as needed.

“The US must extradite Martinelli, as requested by Panama. At that point, the Supreme Court must work to ensure that the former president is held to account on all grand corruption allegations that are pending against him. It is time for justice for all Panamanians who have been hurt by years of corruption,” said Ugaz.

Martinelli should appear in Panama’s courts to answer the charges made by citizens that he allegedly stole from the public purse. This includes allegations of rigging tenders for public contracts for meals and book bags for school children under Panama’s largest social welfare scheme, the National Aid Programme, during his administration from 2009 to 2014.

According to a summary of available audit reports, and investigations by the Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana, the Panamanian chapter of Transparency International, at least US$300 million in public funds may have been lost due to corruption.

More than 26 per cent of Panama’s population lived on less than US$4 per day in 2012. If the alleged looting occurred on such a wide scale, it certainly denied thousands of children and disadvantaged adults of their right to basic services. Transparency International seeks to end the impunity for corruption that has plagued Panama and harmed the Panamanian people.


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Natalie Baharav
T: +49 30 34 38 20 666
E: press@transparency.org