Ricardo Martinelli [CIDOB profile, in Spanish], the president of Panama from 2009 to 2014, was arrested in Coral Gables, Florida on Monday, according [press release] to the US Embassy in Panama [official website]. The arrest is the result of an extradition request by the Panamanian government made in September 2016, related to allegations that Martinelli embezzled money and spied on his political opponents while in office. The 66-year-old businessman is currently being held in a Federal Detention Center in Miami [official website], according to the Embassy.
Mr. Martinelli is being well-treated and has access to his legal counsel. The presentation of the extradition request by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida [official website] on behalf of the government of Panama was done pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the two countries. The United States maintains with Panama, as it does with sovereign partners around the world, a strong and productive law enforcement relationship, one grounded in support of the rule of law.
An extradition hearing is currently scheduled for June 20.
Martinelli’s arrest comes two weeks after the death of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega [JURIST report]. Noriega spent the last 27 years of his life [NYT report] serving prison sentences in France, the US and Panama for embezzlement, corruption and murder during his reign in the 1980s. In January he was allowed to go on house arrest [JURIST report] to prepare for brain surgery that was necessary to remove what his doctors described as a benign tumor.