Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, accused of embezzlement and illegal spying on political rivals, faces possible extradition as Interpol Panama received an arrest warrant for the fugitive former leader, police sources confirmed on Friday.
Panama’s Supreme Court ordered Martinelli’s arrest in December after the former president, known to be hiding out in Miami, failed to show up to a Panamanian court for a much-anticipated hearing on his case.
He was declared in contempt, and judges called for his detention while investigations into charges of corruption and illegal espionage continued.
Last month, the Supreme Court rejected appeals by Martinelli’s legal team to have the arrest warrant overturned.
Judges have now opted to send the arrest warrant straight to Interpol with the goal of seeing Martinelli extradited to Panama, EFE reported citing anonymous police sources.
But Martinelli’s legal team plans to fight the order, saying the former president has not been charged and being held in contempt doesn’t provide a basis for extradition.
The former head of state, who was in office from 2009 to 2014, is accused of embezzlement, selling pardons, insider trading, and running an illegal political espionage ring using public funds to spy on at least 150 people while he was president.
He fled Panama in January 2015 just before the Supreme Court launched the probe in his suspected corruption and exiled himself in Miami, where we made a request for U.S. political asylum.
Martinelli denies being guilty of wrongdoing and his defense claims the legal process is a form of political persecution.