Panama Ex-President Martinelli Is Sentenced To 10 Years In Prison For Money Laundering

(AP) — Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in prison for money laundering.

Martinelli, 71, had been trying to mount a political comeback in next year’s general elections, but a judge sentenced him to 128 months in prison in a case that revolved around the purchase of a media company.

The supermarket magnate who governed Panama from 2009 to 2014 was elected by his party last month as its presidential candidate for the May 5 election.

The case, known locally as “New Business,” dates back to 2017 and concerns the 2010 purchase of a publishing company that owns national newspapers.

Prosecutors said companies that had won lucrative government contracts during Martinelli’s presidency funnelled money to a front company that was then used to purchase the publisher.

The transactions involved a complex series of foreign money transfers totally $43 million. The front company collecting the money was called “New Business.”

In closing statements at trial in June, prosecutor Emeldo Márquez had requested the maximum sentence for Martinelli, which would have been 12 years.

The judge also fined Martinelli $19 million

Martinelli had denied wrongdoing and maintained that he was the victim of a political persecution.