PANAMA CITY (AP) — Two sons of former President Ricardo Martinelli are suspected of receiving more than $50 million in "undue payments" from a Brazilian construction giant at the center of an international bribe scandal, Panamanian prosecutors said Thursday.
The Attorney General's Office alleged in a statement that there were several multimillion-dollar transfers to Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enriquez Martinelli through accounts in Panama and abroad in 2010-2014.
It said the allegations are based on information from a cooperating witness in the investigation: Andre Campos Rabello, the former Panama manager for Brazil's Odebrecht.
The family has denied involvement by the sons in the bribery scandal and alleges persecution by political foes. The former president, who also denies any wrongdoing, is currently detained in the United States facing possible extradition to Panama on charges of embezzlement and political espionage.
Odebrecht has acknowledged paying nearly $800 million dollars in bribes in a dozen Latin American nations in return for favors and works contracts.
That includes at least $59 million in Panama, although authorities say the real figure is likely much higher. The scandal has already implicated former government ministers under the elder Martinelli as well as people linked to the party of current President Juan Carlos Varela.
Reports of the sons' alleged involvement circulated in Panamanian media before Thursday, but this was the first word from judicial authorities.
The revelations came out of a hearing in which a judge approved a cooperation deal with Rabello and two other former Odebrecht executives.
Prosecutors said Rabello testified that the company made irregular payments not for the awarding of contracts but rather to receive "special treatment" to clear administrative hurdles.