Former Panama President Arrested in Florida, Sought for Extradition

U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden said Martinelli was slated to make his initial court appearance before a federal judge in Miami on Tuesday.

Ex-President Ricardo Martinelli was taken into federal custody near his home around 7:30 p.m, officials said.

The US Justice Department arrested former Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli, wanted on charges of being engaged in political espionage, in his residence in Miami, Panamanian media reported.

The arrest was carried out on a provisional arrest warrant from Panama, where Martinelli is under investigation for a number of alleged crimes, including corruption and spying on political opponents.

Panamanian authorities have opened some 200 investigations into Martinelli's administration, according to Transparency International. The contracts in question are estimated to be worth about $45 million. The Interpol had also issued a warrant against him last month.

Panama's government had requested Martinelli's extradition last September to face accusations he spied illegally on his political rivals and intercepted the telephone calls of more than 100 people, including politicians, business and labor leaders, and critical journalists, during his 2009-2014 term as president.

Panama President Ricardo Martinelli gestures during a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Panama City April 19, 2012.

In response to Panama's extradition request previous year, he lashed out at the current government and described himself as a victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

Speaking about his legal troubles in the past, Martinelli said that he was ready to face trial in his home country on condition it would be fair, which he argued is impossible under the government of his successor and former vice president, Juan Carlos Varela.

  • Leroy Wright