Crime & Justice

Panama Odebrecht trial against two former presidents postponed again

Panama City, Sept 26 (EFE).- The trial over the Odebrecht scandal in Panama, in which two former presidents, several former ministers and others are accused of money laundering, was adjourned for the second time without a new start date because “it is still at the stage of admissibility of evidence,” the court handling the case said on Tuesday.

The Odebrecht case is the biggest corruption case in Latin America in recent years.

In exchange for infrastructure contracts, the Brazilian construction company distributed millions of dollars in kickbacks in 11 Latin American countries, as well as the United States and two African countries, Angola and Mozambique. The bribes totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.

In Panama, Odebrecht paid more than $80 million to officials and private individuals, according to the confessions of André Rabello, who headed the construction company’s operations in the Central American country for several years.

The suspended trial

The trial is being conducted against 25 individuals “for the alleged commission of the crimes of money laundering and corruption of public officials.”

It was scheduled to resume on Wednesday, after being suspended on August 1 because the Second Criminal Court said it was still in the “admissibility of evidence” phase.

“The intervening parties have submitted 36 briefs in which a number of testimonies, documents, expert opinions and reports are presented, and more than 100 witnesses have been called,” the court said on Tuesday.

It added that a new date for the hearing would be set “in a timely manner” once the admissibility phase of the evidence has been completed.

Two former presidents indicted

At the center of the trial are former presidents Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019), both of whom were also indicted by the United States this year on corruption charges.

Martinelli, who has filed his candidacy for the 2024 general elections, is returning to the dock after being sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison for money laundering in the purchase of a Panamanian media publishing company.

The former president has appealed the conviction, which he considers part of the same “political persecution” to which he attributes the illegal wiretapping trial from which he escaped unscathed years ago.

Varela is accused of allegedly laundering Odebrecht money received during the political campaigns of 2009, when he was vice president, and 2014, when he won the presidency. The former president has insisted that political donations “are not bribes” and do not constitute crimes.

The presidential sons

The sons of former President Martinelli, Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique, already convicted in the United States for Odebrecht bribes, will not be part of this trial.

In the US courts, the Martinelli brothers confessed to having “participated in bribe payments made by and under the direction of Odebrecht” for a total of 28 million dollars, which they did “on the orders of their father,” according to their defense.

The Martinelli’s were sworn in August as alternate deputies in the Central American Parliament, a position they won in 2019, so now they will be tried by the Panamanian Supreme Court, as the law requires for lawmakers.EFE


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