Former president of Panama arrested in Miami on warrant, in federal custody

A former president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, was arrested Monday on a warrant out of Panama, the U.S. Marshal's Service said.

Martinelli, who served as president from 2009 to 2014, is in federal custody.

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Manny Puri says he was in custody Monday evening at a federal detention center in Miami.

The former president was arrested earlier in the evening near his home in Coral Gables, Florida. He is accused of corruption and spying on opponents in Panama.

Martinelli is expected to appear before a judge for an extradition hearing.

The former president has denied wrongdoing and contends the case is political persecution by his successor.

In February, prosecutors in Panama also said they were seeking international help in detaining two of Martinelli's sons in relation to an alleged scheme to launder bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Martinelli and President Donald Trump have known each other for years. 

A video from the Panamanian government's official website shows Martinelli and Trump along with Trump's children, celebrating the opening of Trump Ocean Club in 2001. 

At the time, Trump called Martinelli his friend. 

A Bloomberg article said some Panamanians refer to Trump as the "American Martinelli." 

During Martinelli's presidency, the country enjoyed an economic boom, but he's now accused of insider trading, embezzlement and using public money to wiretap business and political adversaries. 

Through Twitter, he called the claims bogus. 

Martinelli left Panama in 2015, and in 2016 Panama sent the U.S. an extradition request. 

In December, a U.S. federal judge identified Martinelli as one of several alleged co-conspirators in an unrelated bribery scheme that helped software giant SAP SE sell millions of dollars in software to Panama. 

This BBSNews article was syndicated from News | WPLG, and written by News | WPLG. Read the original article here.