The Asian Age - - World -

Panama City, July 3: Panama’s last two pres­i­dents, Ri­cardo Martinelli and Juan Car­los Varela, were charged on Thurs­day with money laundering, as two sep­a­rate scan­dals tar­nished the po­lit­i­cal legacy of the for­mer al­lies turned ene­mies.

Martinelli was charged with money laundering over the so-called “New Busi­ness” case in which a pub­lish­ing group was al­legedly pur­chased with gov­ern­ment funds dur­ing his 2009-14 term.

Martinelli, 68, was in a com­bat­ive mood as he de­parted the pub­lic prose­cu­tor’s of­fice in Panama City.

“I’m go­ing to be frank with you, this pisses me off, this po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion that has no end... they want to in­volve me (in the case) in or­der to do away with me,” he said, af­ter re­fus­ing to tes­tify.

Martinelli was held in pre­trial de­ten­tion for two years af­ter he was ex­tra­dited from the United States to face trial for spy­ing on his po­lit­i­cal foes. He was ac­quit­ted on those charges in 2019.

Varela mean­while “was charged with money laundering in the Ode­brecht case,” the pub­lic prose­cu­tor’s of­fice said.

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