The Martinelli Linares brothers move for immunity in the Blue Apple case

the M-Ls
The Martinelli Linares brothers in Guatemalan custody after their attempt to flee from US jurisdiction back to Panama was cut short there. The Guatemalans held them in a VIP lockup with access to all the vices money might buy but sent them back to the USA, where they pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal District Court on money laundering charges. At their sentencing their lawyers argued on their behalf that they were pressured to commit the crime by their father, former president Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal. After doing their US federal prison time they were deported to Panama by the USA. Guatemalan Police photo. 

Recycling daddy’s motions

by Eric Jackson

Back in 2019, before he founded his RM party, former president Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal arranged for his two sons, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, to be at the top of the ticket of the party he owned at the time Cambio Democratico, to run for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN). It’s a do-nothing body, created as part of the process to end Central America’s wars of the 70s, 80s and 90s in large part to assure former presidents that they would not be executed for war crimes.

(Historically, it can happen to just about any gray-eyed man of destiny. Ask any Tico who knows Costa Rican history what they did to William Walker.)

Now the Martinelli  Linares brothers,, back in Panama after having done time in the USA and ratted on their dad for money laundering, face Panamanian charges for other the crimes in the general scheme of things. They pleaded in Brooklyn as to Odebrecht kickback laundering, and coming up is a trial in Panama for a similar scheme to skim other public works contracts via a supposed factoring company called Blue Apple.  



At some point we will surely hear it argued that this never happened, or if it did that the Martinelli Linares brothers had nothing to do with it. They have guarantees of their days in court. However, police and prosecutors have investigated and accused, and judges have found probable cause to believe the allegations.

BUT WAIT!!! Even though the brothers never bothered to serve, nor even to be sworn in, as alternate members of PARLACEN, back in 2019 Cambio Democratico got enough votes for them to be elected. Now that its’ convenient, they plan to be sworn in and thus avail themselves of legislative immunity. Garbed in that, ordinary courts would lack jurisdiction to try them — only the Supreme Court would have that — and there would have to be proceedings to strip them of immunity before any money laundering, bribery or corruption of public officials claims might be heard. If everything works out, that might delay any proceedings until after their father returns to the presidencia, from which he could pardon his sons.

IF, IF, IF….

The father? He played those games with Panamanian courts and went up and down until he found some judges who threw out the files that the Supreme Court had sent down on remand as to the electronic eavesdropping charges. As to to the New Business case about skimming from public works contracts to buy himself control of a newspaper chain, Judge Marquínez wouldn’t accept it. Nor did she give full faith and credit to the ex-president’s doctor note from the renowned neurosurgeon Walter Kravcio, now facing charges for defrauding the United States via health care or alleged health care for US military veterans living in Panama. The elder Martinelli’s more than 10-year sentence is now on appeal in the courts and, unless and until the government steps in, on the pages of his dubiously acquired newspapers.

Is Don Ricky “the Teflon Don?” Well, they ultimately sent John Gotti up, too.

Anyway, these are the sons and when trying to fight extradition from Guatemala to the United States they played the PARLACEN card there. But back in 2020 the committee of that body that looks into such things opposed swearing them in, as did the majority of the Panamanian delegation, the partisan composition of which remains the same. The committee is considering the Martinellis’ request.

Fun to speculate, and there are circumstances to feed such speculation, about what role the Americans might be playing here. They did extradite, convict, jail and deport the two Martinelli Linares brothers. They did extradite the ex-president, and very likely have a sealed indictment awaiting him should ever he set foot on a US jurisdiction again. Panamanians can’t constitutionally be extradited from Panama, but Uncle Sam just did prevail upon Panama to prosecute two Panamanian physicians for fraud against the US Treasury and one of the two men was signatory to one of Don Ricky’s infamous trial delay notes. The US Embassy did indicate which Panamanian presidential candidates Washington dislikes by which ones were not invited to the Fourth of July party. 

There are, however, traditional limits. It’s not polite, as Omar Torrijos said about Ronald Reagan, to address a leader of Panama as if the governor of Puerto Rico. People with nothing to do with the dispute can be hurt, for one thing.

That said, it should not be surprising if PARLACEN members who vote to allow the Martinelli Linares brothers into their ranks, or doctors who write Martinelli trial delay notes, or judges who go out of their ways and outside of the law to give any of the Martinellis impunity, find it impossible to get visas to go to Disney World. 


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