Two sons of former President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli, charged last week with money laundering, were arrested on Monday in Guatemala City on suspicion of extradition to the United States, also on suspicion of money laundering, announced the Guatemalan Interior Ministry. The two men - Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, aged 38 and 48 respectively - were arrested at La Aurora international airport in the capital Guatemala when they were preparing to embark on a private flight to Panama, the ministry said in a statement.
An arrest warrant for extradition for "conspiracy to commit money laundering" motivated their arrest, the same source said. The Martinelli brothers were "watched and followed since June 30 on the basis of classified information according to which they would leave Monday" Guatemala, added the Guatemalan Ministry of the Interior . No information was provided on the date and the circumstances of the entry of the two men into Guatemalan territory.
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Luis Enrique and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli argued that they enjoy immunity as alternate members of the Central American Parliament (Parlacen), based in Guatemala, for the period 2019-2024. They were presented to the Guatemalan courts for analysis of their situation. The Martinelli brothers are accused in Panama of having received, during their father's presidential mandate, from 2009 to 2014, nearly $ 56 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, to facilitate obtaining markets, notably for the construction of a highway and sanitation works in Panama Bay.
On July 2, their father Ricardo was charged with money laundering and placed under judicial supervision. The former president is suspected of having bought a press group with public money during his mandate. The former president, extradited by the United States, was already acquitted in 2019 of the accusation of spying on his opponents in Panama and abroad, after having spent two years in preventive prison. His name has been mentioned in multiple corruption scandals for which a dozen of his ministers have been arrested.
His lawyers argue that he cannot be tried for any other matter than that which motivated his extradition.