Panama charges 17 people linked to Odebrecht bribe case

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama prosecutors said on Tuesday they had charged 17 people, including several businessmen and former government officials, with money laundering as part of the case of millions of dollars worth of bribes paid by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht S.A.

Attorney General Kenia Porcell declined to name the accused, but local media reported they included three former officials from the administration of Ricardo Martinelli, who is currently living in the United States and is being investigated separately for corruption at home.

Brazil’s Odebrecht, which became one of the most important government contractors under Martinelli, verbally agreed this month to pay $59 million in payments for bribes it paid in Panama to win business between 2010 in 2014.

The sum is the amount in bribes Odebrecht admitted paying to officials and intermediaries there in a plea agreement disclosed in December in a U.S. court.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Enrique Andres Pretel, Bernard Orr