Ex-Panama president's sons arrested in Guatemala on corruption charges

GUATEMALA CITY/PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Two sons of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli were arrested in Guatemala City on Monday and face extradition to the United States on money laundering charges, Guatemalan police said.

Luis Enrique Martinelli, 38, and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, 40, were detained at the main international airport as they attempted to board a flight to Panama, Guatemala’s police said in a statement.

The two are wanted in the United States for “conspiracy to commit money laundering,” according to the Guatemalan police, but for now will remain in custody in the Central American country.

“It is a process that will take time. We are not going to send them today to the United States,” police spokesman Erwin Monroy said in an interview.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Martinelli family said in a statement it is working to ensure the sons have legal assistance in Guatemala and are able to transfer the proceedings to Panama. It did not address the charges.

Panamanian prosecutors in 2017 accused the Martinelli sons of receiving $49 million from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, which has been at the center of a far-reaching Latin American bribery scandal, while their father was president.

Former President Martinelli and his successor, Juan Carlos Varela, were last week banned from leaving Panama while under investigation for money laundering in separate corruption cases.

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