PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama’s government said on Wednesday it wanted to recover millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains made by two sons of a former Panamanian president who have pleaded guilty in the United States to money laundering.
The sons of former President Ricardo Martinelli – Luis Enrique Martinelli and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli – entered guilty pleas this month after U.S. prosecutors accused them of acting as intermediaries for some $28 million in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to a Panamanian official while their father was president from 2009 to 2014.
Panama’s attorney general’s office said in a statement it sent the U.S. Department of Justice the restitution request last Friday, describing the Central American country as the “victim” of the brothers’ crimes.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Panama said Ricardo Martinelli admitted conspiring with his brother Luis and others to create offshore bank accounts for front companies to receive and cover up over $28 million in bribes from Odebrecht.
The case stems from Odebrecht’s own guilty plea from 2016 in which the firm admitted engaging in bribery and money laundering related to the payment of more than $700 million in bribes to officials across Latin America in order to win contracts.
The elder Ricardo Martinelli has not been convicted of any crimes, but he remains under investigation in Panama due to a separate ongoing probe concerning Odebrecht. He has consistently maintained his innocence and described himself as the victim of political witch hunts.
(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Dave Graham and Peter Cooney)