Ex-Panama president's sons detained in Miami on corruption charges

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - The two sons of jailed former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli have been arrested in Miami and face extradition back home on money-laundering charges, Panama’s attorney general said on Wednesday.

Attorney General Kenia Porcell told local television that Martinelli’s sons, Luis Enrique Martinelli and Ricardo Martinelli, had been arrested, but said he was awaiting further details.

“Yes, they have confirmed the detention of these people,” Porcell said.

Panamanian prosecutors in November 2017 accused the two of receiving $49 million from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] while their father was president.

A lawyer for the two sons said he could not confirm their arrest and did not have further comments on the charges.

The elder Martinelli, a former supermarket tycoon who led Panama from 2009 to 2014, has been held in a prison on the outskirts of Panama City since June after being extradited from the United States.

He faces charges that he used public money to spy on more than 150 political rivals during his presidency.

Martinelli has said he is being persecuted for political reasons by President Juan Carlos Varela.

Luis Camacho, Martinelli’s spokesman, said the charges against the former president’s sons also appeared to be tainted by political pressures.

Last year, Odebrecht agreed to pay $220 million in fines to Panama and to cooperate with probes into bribes paid to Panamanian officials.

Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Michael O’Boyle and Peter Cooney