San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Panama

Panama court declares ex-president Ricardo Martinelli in contempt

PANAMA CITY — Martinelli, who faces a host of corruption accusations stemming from his presidency (2009-2014), has not been seen in Panama since January.

In the latest case, the court decided to suspend its proceedings because Martinelli’s absence “prevents discussion of any other issue in this hearing,” said presiding judge Jeronimo Mejía.

Martinelli and his former police and security chiefs are accused of intercepting the communications of some 150 opposition politicians, journalists, activists and business executives.

The conservative ex-leader, a millionaire supermarket magnate, has called the cases against him “political persecution” by his successor and erstwhile ally, Juan Carlos Varela.

Martinelli, 63, is also under investigation for allegedly skimming money off the top of a $45-million school lunch contract, and is mentioned in the probes into a dozen other corruption cases.

Panama has requested an Interpol notice for his arrest.

Recommended: From Miami’s ‘Scarface’ pad, Panama’s exiled President Ricardo Martinelli fights back

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