No Magnitsky sanctions passed against Martinelli;
anti-corruption investigations must continue
by Libertad Ciudandana / Transparency International
While welcoming the inclusion of individuals and entities suspected of corrupt practices, Transparency International and its national chapter in Panama, Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Libertad Ciudadana (also known as Transparency International Panama), are disappointed that Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal, former president of Panama, has not been named in the first list of designees under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act announced by the US Government on December 21.
Designees include 15 individuals and more than 30 companies. Individuals sanctioned for suspected involvement in corruption include Gulnara Karimova of Uzbekistan, former president Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, and Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler.
The US and Panamanian authorities should continue investigating Martinelli for his alleged involvement in corrupt deals.
Transparency International had called for Martinelli’s assets to be frozen and his U.S. visa or other relevant permit revoked under the Global Magnitsky Act in September 2017, along with other human rights and anti-corruption NGOs that each submitted case files on individuals and entities from various countries.
On 31 August 2017, a court in Florida approved a request to extradite Martinelli to Panama. This is awaiting approval from the US State Department. A new arrest warrant has been issued against him by judges in Panama as recently as 12 December 2017.
“With this decision, the United States has missed a further opportunity to send a clear signal that no corrupt leader can act with impunity and hold on to their ill-gotten gains,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International.
“It is not appropriate that Martinelli, who is facing extradition to Panama for not appearing in criminal court, is able to enjoy his assets in the US,” said Olga de Obaldía, Executive Director of Transparency International Panama. “Nonetheless, Panama’s Supreme Court must press on and finalize other corruption charges to be added to the extradition request to the United States. Cases should be brought in a rigorous and timely manner.”
Over 200 investigations have been opened into allegedly corrupt deals that occurred during Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal’s term as president from 2009 to 2014. The former president himself is the subject of eight Supreme Court investigations, for charges including bribery, misappropriation of public funds, and abuse of power, among others. Among other schemes, Martinelli and his associates are accused of manipulating the allocation of resources to Panama’s largest social welfare scheme, the National Aid Program, through rigged tenders and use of shell companies. In addition, a US federal judge identified Martinelli as one of several alleged co‐conspirators in a bribery scheme that helped a subsidiary of the German software producer SAP sell software to Panama in exchange for bribes.
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act is the most comprehensive human rights and anti-corruption sanctions tool in US history. Passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in December 2016, the law is named after whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who was imprisoned by Russian authorities and died in custody in 2009. Under the act, the US government may sanction foreign individuals and entities found to have committed gross violations of human rights, or to have engaged in significant acts of corruption, by subjecting designees to asset freezes and visa restrictions. The law expands upon the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which applied only to Russian individuals and entities.
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