The former Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, has lost a new battle in his fight to avoid being prosecuted. On Monday, Panama’s Supreme Court rejected his appeal to stop a legal process which seeks to hold him accountable for allegedly embezzling $45 million from a state program.
At an extraordinary meeting, the full Court upheld its decision from last January 28 to approve a legal process to prosecute Martinelli. The former president, who ruled Panama from 2009 to 2014, is at the heart of a storm of political scandals for alleged acts of corruption committed during his tenure.
The Court said in a statement that it “flatly rejected the two reviews” that Panamanian lawyers Rogelio Cruz and Raul Gonzalez, filed against the decision from January against the criminal case that attempts to hold Martinelli responsible for alleged crimes against the public administration.
Accordingly, the Court ordered that the process that began in late January be continued so the criminal case on Martinelli for alleged crimes against public administration can proceed. The decision also asks the Electoral Court to lift the immunity that Martinelli has in his capacity as president of the opposition Democratic Change and that prevents any criminal prosecution.
The Second Anti-Corruption Prosecutor of Panama is responsible for overseeing the investigation into the alleged payment of extra costs in contracts for $45 million to buy dehydrated food that would be distributed in public education centers by the Government’s National Assistance Program.
In a message he wrote on his Twitter account on Monday morning, before the decision of the Court was known, Martinelli said that in Panama “justice is decided by “his successor in office, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela. He decides everything […] I’m sure I will be wrongly prosecuted and hopefully after that Varela will get to work,” Martinelli said.
On January 28, after the first decision of the Court and after Martinelli, in his initial reactions, accused Varela of not respecting human rights and of being behind the legal case against him, Varela said in an interview that if the former president “did not do things right” he must face justice and accountability. The president denied allegations made by his predecessor.
Faced with the decision of the Court in January, the former Panamanian president traveled to Guatemala to assert his immunity as a deputy of his country to the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), which would supposedly protect him against possible charges related to this case. However, the Guatemalan former vice president Rafael Espada, president of the regional forum, said that it is false that the Panamanian politician is exempt from prosecution for belonging to that organization. “Martinelli has no immunity. If the Panamanian parliament does not give him immunity, neither will we do it,” said Espada.
After handing the presidency to Varela, Panama has been rocked by allegations of irregularities and corruption that occurred, presumably, during Martinelli’s administration.
Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder and editor-in-chief at The Real Agenda. His career spans over 18 years and almost every form of news media. His articles include subjects such as environmentalism, Agenda 21, climate change, geopolitics, globalisation, health, vaccines, food safety, corporate control of governments, immigration and banking cartels, among others. Luis has worked as a news reporter, on-air personality for Live and Live-to-tape news programs. He has also worked as a script writer, producer and co-producer on broadcast news. Read more about Luis.