PANAMA CITY - Panama has charged 17 people, including the sons of a former president, in the Odebrecht bribery case.
The Attorney General of Panama, Kenia Porcell, announced Tuesday the 17, who were charged with money laundering, include two sons of former president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) - whose Swiss bank accounts containing $22 million were frozen - as well as three former senior officials, eight Panamanian and five foreign businessmen, along with a local private bank officer.
The government also said it will be the prosecutor in the trial against Odebrecht "so that the different institutions that may be affected will be part of the process, actively collaborating and recovering diverted funds."
Although the attorney general did not reveal the names of the 17 accused, media reports identified them as Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, his brother Mario who was the Minister of Public Works, Federico Suarez and the former director of the Social Insurance Fund Guillermo Saez-Llorens.
Former president of the state Savings Bank Riccardo Francolini, arrested in the investigation of an irregular loan; lawyer Evelyn Vargas along with businesswomen Ana Isabel Suarez Cedeņo and Nitzela Bonilla, are the other names in the list, reported TVN news.
The prosecution has issued an order for the nine to immediately appear before the court to testify in the Odebrecht bribery case.
Martinelli's spokesperson Luis Eduardo Camacho told EFE Tuesday that the Prosecution is not "respecting the procedural guarantees (...) and the presumption of innocence."
The first documents made public from the American Department of Justice reveal that of the $788 million that Odebrecht paid in commissions in 12 countries, $59 million went to Panamanian ex-officials and about $6 million to relatives of a top official between 2009 and 2014.
With the United States, Switzerland and Brazil investigating the case, the Panamanian Prosecution has a wide range of information that includes not only the Martinelli period but extends to all administrations of the government that the investigation leads to, said Rodriguez.
Odebrecht runs infrastructure projects in Panama that exceed $3 billion and has 8,000 employees, and is in charge of the construction of metro Line 2 and the urban renewal of Colon, awarded during the current administration of Juan Carlos Varela.
In December, the government vetoed Odebrecht's participation in new tenders until it repays the state and cooperate with judicial investigations.
The orders come amid strong criticism of the Prosecutor's Office over its alleged inaction over a corruption scandal that has provoked serious actions, including raids and arrests, in other countries, such as Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic.