US approves extradition of Panama ex-president Ricardo Martinelli

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Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will be extradited to his homeland from the United States, where he has been held on charges of political espionage and corruption, one of his lawyers said.

“It’s happening [on Monday],” Sidney Sitton told the Reuters news agency, without providing further details.

On Friday, President Juan Carlos Varela said the US Department of State had approved his request to extradite his predecessor.

Martinelli was taken into custody near his home in Florida in June 2017 after Panama requested his extradition on charges that he used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his 2009-2014 term.

Martinelli, 66, has another dozen cases pending that range from the misappropriation of public funds to the sale of pardons.

Martinelli has denied wrongdoing and contends that the case amounts to political persecution by his successor.

Varela served as Martinelli’s vice president but they have sparred bitterly since the transfer of power.

Martinelli, a supermarket tycoon, presided over an infrastructure boom and Latin America‘s fastest economic growth in recent years, but his administration was tainted by allegations of corruption.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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