Panama City, Panama — Former Panamanian president, Ricardo Martinelli, appears to have intentionally avoided entering, or even transiting the United States since leaving office last year.
While criminal charges against former heads of state are rare in the US, they are not unknown, especially when Panama is involved, leading to rumours that Martinelli is under indictment for money laundering there.
Here is why there is a strong chance this is true:
(1) Martinelli pointedly sent his private jet into, and through the US, while his supporters were advising the media that he was in America, yet he was not on board, nor did he arrive in Miami on that plane, which continued on to Europe. He has engaged in a campaign of disinformation regarding his whereabouts, leading to speculation that he afraid of arrest and extradition to the US.
(2) When the target is not in US jurisdiction, the indictment remains sealed, and not available to the public, so that the target can be apprehended upon arrival, not suspecting that charges exist.
(3) David Murcia Guzmán, a Colombian pyramid fraudster, padded his Ponzi profits with narcotics profits, to the tune of $3 billion, and much of that money was laundered through Martinelli’s Super 99 market chain. Murcia, who is not longer in the federal prison system, and thought to be in WITSEC (the federal witness security [protection] program). Murcia is said to be cooperating with US law enforcement, and his testimony alone is thought to be more than sufficient to convict Martinelli of drug money laundering.
(4) Millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, paid to Martinelli by a publicly-owned corporation in Italy, to secure lucrative contracts in Panama, were reportedly transferred to a number of overseas accounts. The dollar transactions were transferred through New York; the acceptance of bribes and kickbacks were predicate acts.
(5) There are credible rumours of a large cash reward for information leading to his capture being circulated by law enforcement.
Many Panamanians in the US are hoping that they will have the opportunity to see their allegedly corrupt former president in District Court in Miami, facing American justice.
Kenneth Rijock is a banking lawyer turned-career money launderer (10 years), turned-compliance officer specialising in enhanced due diligence, and a financial crime consultant who publishes a Financial Crime Blog. The Laundry Man, his autobiography, was published in the UK on 5 July 2012.