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US bans entry of former Panamaniam president and family members

Panama, Jan 26 (Prensa Latina) The United States banned former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), accused of being linked to acts of corruption, and his family members from entering the country, local media reported on Thursday.

According to La Estrella de Panama newspaper, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that Martinelli accepted bribes in exchange for improperly awarding government contracts during his office as president, which “makes him and his immediate family members ineligible to enter the United States.”

The document, made public by the US Embassy in Panama, adds that accepting bribes in exchange for contracts for government projects undermines the integrity of Panama’s democratic institutions and spreads the perception of corruption and impunity, La Prensa reported.

The article was published shortly after the sons of the former president, Luis Enrique Martinelli and Ricardo Martinelli, returned home on Wednesday after serving a 23-month prison sentence in the United States on charges of money laundering.

The sons of the former president arrived at the Tocumen international airport on a commercial flight and were guarded by agents of the US immigration service, their lawyer, Carlos Carrillo, said.

The Martinelli brothers are charged in Panama, along with their father, with money laundering in the Odebrecht case and another scandal known as Blue Apple, a scheme to collect commissions to expedite contracts during the Martinelli administration.