Ex-Panama president’s sons charged in NYC federal court after being captured in Colombia

Three sons of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli were charged with wire fraud and other offenses in a federal court in Manhattan on Friday, after being extradited to the U.S. from Colombia, where they…

Ex-Panama president's sons charged in NYC federal court after being captured in Colombia

Three sons of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli were charged with wire fraud and other offenses in a federal court in Manhattan on Friday, after being extradited to the U.S. from Colombia, where they were captured after a six-month police and military chase.

By midnight, Manuel Martinelli, the disgraced former Panamanian leader, was being held in federal custody in New York City, FOX News reported.

“The father made sure I didn’t have to go,” said a furious Martinelli, yelling out at his sons.

Two of the brothers, an ex-police chief and an intelligence officer, were arrested in Panama in August. Former Health Minister and in-laws Hans Alex and Jose Roberto Martinelli were arrested the next day in Colombia, and were extradited to the U.S. on Friday.

The brothers and former Health Minister are accused of grand larceny, fraud and money laundering, the BBC reported. The Panamanian Prosecutor’s Office alleged the family used a health insurance scheme to inflate government health spending by millions of dollars.

The family members were investigated following concerns that some of the late President’s more than $40 million in personal money was wired to bank accounts in Delaware and France, the Washington Post reported. Martinelli’s immediate family members deny wrongdoing.

The family has long been suspected of wrongdoing. Manuel Martinelli was found guilty in a separate corruption case and sentenced to six years in prison in 2013, but that was overturned on appeal.

“These are really sinister allegations,” Luis Arnoldo Gomez, the former ambassador to the United States, told the Los Angeles Times. “This is as serious as I’ve seen it.”

Last month, Venezuela’s Juana Ramona Veras, wife of the acting president, offered to foot a $1 million bail for Manuel, the BBC reported. President Juan Orlando Hernandez refused her offer. “While you’re living the standard of someone the world loves, we’re living like we’re trying to live in extreme poverty,” Hernandez said.

The ex-president now faces up to 151 years in prison if convicted.

Alex and Jose Roberto also face corruption charges in Panama. They insist they are innocent.

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