PANAMA CITY – Panama’s Supreme Court is to open an investigation against former president Ricardo Martinelli on corruption charges, official sources said.
Nine judges voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the probe against of Martinelli for alleged crimes against the public administration and appointed two judges, one as acting prosecutor on the case and the other as an acting guarantee judge, said a statement issued by the court.
The court also requested the Electoral Tribunal judges to lift the criminal immunity for Martinelli who is the leader of the Democratic Change party.
Several Panamanian legislators and lawyers claimed that for the court to start the investigation against Martinelli, he must first be divested of the judicial protection he enjoys as party leader.
Martinelli is also a member of the Central American Parliament and his lawyer said Wednesday that he enjoys the same immunities and privileges as diplomats.
Although the Supreme Court statement said that Martinelli is “currently a member of the Central American Parliament,” it made no reference to the immunity, nor did it say it would ask the regional forum to lift the protection.
The court wants to investigate the former head of state for allegations he inflated contracts to purchase dehydrated food.
Martinelli was accused by former National Aid Program (PAN) director Giacomo Tamburelli for being responsible for signing a $45 million contract for the purchase of the food.
In statements to the press in December, Tamburelli said that all the orders and paperwork for purchases through PAN were given by Martinelli through his private secretary Adolfo de Obarrio and that “he had to follow instructions.”