PANAMA CITY – Panama’s foreign ministry on Tuesday formally asked the U.S. government to extradite former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in connection with illegal wiretaps, official sources told EFE.
The request was conveyed by the Panamanian Embassy in Washington on behalf of the Central American country’s Supreme Court, which is investigating allegations that Martinelli illegally spied on more than 200 people during his 2009-2014 presidency, the sources said.
The high court, which last December ordered Martinelli’s arrest in the illegal wiretapping case, on May 26 delivered the extradition request to the Foreign Ministry.
“The Foreign Ministry was the channel for transmitting the Court’s request and ensuring that it complied with all the requirements. Now, it’s up to the United States to handle it,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Monica De Leon.
The defense team of the former president and head of the Democratic Change party has presented a series of motions against the extradition process and has claimed that their client is the victim of political persecution on the part of his successor in the presidency and former electoral ally, Juan Carlos Varela.
Martinelli, a 64-year-old business mogul, left Panama on Jan. 28, 2015, the same day on which the high court accepted the first corruption case against him.