Sons of Panamanian ex-president released from US prison


The two brothers are expected to return to Panama on Wednesday, where they and their father face corruption charges.

Two sons of Panama’s ex-President Ricardo Martinelli are expected to return to the country after serving prison terms in the United States for their involvement in an international corruption scandal.

Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares will arrive in Panama on Wednesday evening after being released earlier in the day shortly before their three-year prison sentences in the US expire.

They were convicted of conspiracy to launder millions of dollars in bribes for Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

In August, the brothers will stand trial again, this time in Panama, for their involvement in the scandal during their father’s tenure between 2009 and 2014. The brothers have admitted to receiving $28 million in bribes from the construction company, about $19 of which million went through US accounts.

Their father, the elder Martinelli, also awaits trial on money laundering charges in the Odebrecht case, but has said he will run for president again in 2024. Another former president, Juan Carlos Varela, will also face trial in August. case, which includes charges against 36 people.

In 2016, the construction company Odebrecht admitted to paying about $788 million in bribes between 2001 and 2016 to win contracts in Panama and 11 other countries. It paid $3.5 billion in fines.

In December 2021, the two Martinelli brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering after being extradited to the US from Guatemala. They were held in Guatemala for 23 months before being extradited.

In May last year, they were sentenced to three years in prison in the US, but were released on Wednesday after serving a total of about two and a half years, including time already spent in detention before sentencing. The AFP news agency reported that the brothers’ early release was the result of good behaviour.

Their return to Panama is closely monitored, especially as the August trial approaches. Panamanian Attorney General Javier Caraballo issued a statement on Tuesday calling on the brothers to appear in court in the country.

The brothers have posted a $14 million bail in advance to avoid being jailed in Panama pending trial on money laundering and corruption charges.

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