PANAMA CITY – Victims of alleged illegal wiretapping by Ricardo Martinelli warned on Tuesday that allies of Panama’s former president want to sabotage the criminal case against him.
Attorney and plaintiff Rosendo Rivera said that Supreme Court Judge Jose Ayu Pardo “is pulling strings to try to influence and achieve absolution or benefits in favor of Mr. Martinelli.”
Ayu Prado is trying to influence the choice of the three-judge panel that will hear the case against the former head of state, Rivera said in a press conference with about 10 victims of the alleged eavesdropping.
Martinelli appointed Ayu Prado to the Supreme Court, which last week declined to take the case against the ex-president while allowing the prosecution to go forward in the lower courts.
Mitchell Doens, a former Cabinet Minister, called for the choice of new judges to be public and “transparent.”
“Panamanian justice has become a country of Phoenicians, where everything is sold and everything is bought, including verdicts,” the politician added.
Martinelli, a 66-year-old business mogul, has been held in pretrial detention since his extradition from the United States in June.
He was detained in the US in June 2017 at Panama’s request and ultimately abandoned his legal battle against extradition.
Prosecutor Harry Diaz is asking for 21 years in prison for Martinelli, who left Panama on Jan. 28, 2015, after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the first of several corruption cases against him.
Two of Martinelli’s sons are the subjects of Interpol red notices in connection with the bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, a case in which several dozen people face prosecution.
Odebrecht has admitted as part of a settlement with US authorities that it paid $59 million in bribes to Panamanian officials during the 2009-2014 Martinelli administration.