Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares taking the oath by video conference during a Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) session held in combination online and in Nicaragua. This after twice failing to be sworn in at the PARLACEN building here because most Panamanian members stayed away, avoiding a quorum. Ultimately no vote was needed to induct them into a body that doesn’tr do very much. Image from the PARLACEN video.
They’re not entirely off the hook, but now only the Supreme Court can try them
by Eric Jackson
We shall see how far the rumors of a PRD-Martinelista alliance go, both in national politics and in Panama’s Supreme Court of Justice. By acquiring the same fuero as legislators get, former president Ricardo Martinelli’s sons don’t get absolute immunity but the ordinary courts lose jurisdiction over them. If they are to be tried for money laundering in the Blue Apple case, it will be by the high court, which no longer has any Martinelli appointees on its bench.
So can the magistrates be bought? Can they be persuaded to rule according to an out-of-court political deal rather than to the law? Can prosecutors be bribed to take dives in their pleas and presentations? Perhaps, but the ‘We didn’t do it!’ argument would mostly just annoy any Panamanian who pays attention. The brothers pleaded guilty to laundering bribe money for their father in a US federal district court in Brooklyn and served US time for it. At their sentencing their lawyers pleaded that they were coerced into committing the crimes by an overbearing father. ‘But that was Odebrecht, and the charges that are pending against us are in the Blue Apple case!’ argument might have a bit of merit, BUT FOR the fact that both matters are about a common scheme of skimming kickbacks off of overpriced public works contracts during the 2009-2014 Martinelli administration and laundering the money through chains of companies, accounts, and countries.
So might the Martinelli’s find a way to eke out a legal victory, perhaps by a series of delays with hopes that their father becomes president again and pardons them? But their dad is convicted and facing a more than 10-year prison sentence, with yet more corruption charges pending. It’s doubtful that he’ll even be allowed on next year’s ballot.
But stranger things have happened here.
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