Panama ex-president wins presidential primary despite corruption charges
Panama’s former president Ricardo Martinelli won his party’s primary on Sunday and the right to seek another term in the elections next year, even though he has been indicted on money laundering charges.
Martinelli, who was president from 2009 to 2014, stands accused of having bought a majority share in the Editora Panama America publishing house in 2010 using illegally acquired state funds.
Last week, a prosecutor requested a 12-year prison term for him and 12 other defendants.
Still, on Sunday, he won the primary held by his party, called Achieving Goals, which he founded in 2021.
Martinelli took 96 percent of the votes although turnout was only 25 percent, the Election Commission said.
The election is scheduled for May of next year.
Prosecutors say Martinelli and others used a series of front companies to siphon off almost $44 million from state infrastructure contracts during his presidency.
Martinelli then allegedly used part of this money to buy a controlling stake in the media company, whose newspapers adopted an editorial line that promoted the ex-president’s interests.
Supermarket magnate Martinelli denies having received any ill-gotten gains and claims to be a victim of political machinations to prevent him from standing in the presidential elections.
Martinelli has been investigated for multiple corruption scandals since leaving office.
In 2021, he was acquitted for a second time on charges of espionage and embezzlement of public funds.