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Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli is sentenced to 10 years in prison

The former governor of Panama Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison for money laundering, a sentence announced this Tuesday that ignited the political debate in the country, given his aspiration to be elected president again in the 2024 general elections.

In the ruling of the case known as “New Business” or the irregular purchase in 2010 of Editorial Panamá América SA (Epasa), known this Tuesday, but dated July 17, Judge Baloísa Marquínez, Liquidator of Criminal Cases, sentenced Martinelli to 128 months in prison and fined him $19.2 million.

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They will appeal the sentence

The 71-year-old Martinelli defense team has already announced that it will appeal this sentence, which the former president had already predicted on June 21 on his Twitter account, almost a month ahead of time.

“I want you to know that they are going to convict me on Friday in the New Business case for trying to screw me over. Everyone has already told me that an unfair, illegal and immoral ruling has been coming down since there is no evidence of crimes “then expressed on the social network the presidential candidate of his party Realizing Goals (RM).

This Tuesday Martinelli has not expressed anything on his social networks, but the newspaper Panama Americapublished by Epasa, today published some statements by the former president on the case before the sentence was known.

“I invested in a company, my money comes from a fixed term of money, which was there for about 10 or 15 years before being president of the Republic and I only have between 14 and 20% of the business, but I they want to attribute a higher percentage”said, among others, the former president, according to the newspaper.

The electoral vein

The defense lawyer, Carlos Carillo, reiterated in a press conference that his defendant is innocent and stressed that the sentence they will appeal should not affect Martinelli’s presidential candidacy.

One of the most outstanding points in the debate generated in the local media by this ruling, the first of guilt against Martinelli, who was acquitted in another case of illegal wiretapping.

Martinelli also faces money laundering charges in the Odebrecht case, whose trial will begin this year. Two sons will also be tried in the case of the construction company, for which they have already served jail time in the US, where they confessed that they laundered 28 million dollars and that they traded bribes for orders “of the father”as his defense said.

Despite the ruling in the “New Business” case, Martinelli’s presidential candidacy will remain enabled until it has been ratified in all instances, the last of these being the Supreme Court, constitutionalist Ernesto Cedeño told EFE.

But the times of Justice in Panama are usually very slow. This was recognized by local analyst José Eugenio Stoute, who, however, expressed to EFE his confidence that the appeals for the case will be resolved “quite quickly, before the end of the year”because otherwise “a deliberate delay and a mockery of Justice.”

“That there be justice, that the Second Superior Court (first instance of appeal) issue in a short time if it agrees or not” with the ruling, and if it reaches the Supreme Court of Appeal, that it annul it, reaffirm it or even not admit it, which are their options, explained the Panamanian analyst.

The satisfied prosecution

In addition to Martinelli, for the “New Business” case, four other people were sentenced for money laundering to between 70 and 96 months in prison, while 10 were acquitted, indicated the Public Ministry (MP, Prosecutor’s Office).

“The Public Ministry is satisfied with the 5 people who have been sentenced (…) but we will still carry out a review” on the acquittals to proceed, if so deemed “to present the appeals”said the Superior Prosecutor against Organized Crime, Emeldo Márquez, in a video.

For the purchase of Epasa, 43.91 million dollars were collected in December 2010, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, which affirms that Martinelli “contacted contractors, contributed money” and it turned out “recipient” being him “holder of 60% of the shares” from the publisher.

The sentence released this Tuesday ordered “the dissolution of two companies and the (de)confiscation of the shares of a publishing house, in favor of the State, as well as the administration of movable and immovable property of said publishing house”indicated the judicial letter.

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