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Ricardo Martinelli: Panama's ex-leader guilty of money laundering


A court in Panama has found former President Ricardo Martinelli guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to 10 years and eight months in jail.

Mr Martinelli, 71, has denied any wrongdoing and says the charges against him are politically motivated.

He is expected to appeal against the verdict less than a year before Panama's presidential election.

Last month his party chose Mr Martinelli as its presidential candidate.

Mr Martinelli was in power from 2009 to 2014. Since he left office, he has faced several charges; Two years ago, he was acquitted of embezzlement charges and spying on his opponents and journalists by tapping their phones.

But he is still facing another court case - expected to go to trial next month - in which he is accused of laundering bribes from Brazilian firm Odebrecht.

Mr Martinelli says he is innocent and that the legal cases are aimed at keeping him from running for another term in office.

In Tuesday's ruling, the judge found that Mr Martinelli and several other accused had used millions of dollars from public funds to buy a majority share in one of Panama's main media groups.

Prosecutors alleged that the newspapers belonging to the group subsequently adopted an editorial line supportive of Mr Martinelli's government.

The judge also ordered that Mr Martinelli pay a fine of $19.2m (£14.7m).


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