RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The sons of former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), Ricardo Alberto and Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, were trying to escape from prison in Guatemala where they are awaiting extradition to the United States, an official source said Thursday.
Guatemalan Interior Minister Gendri Reyes told journalists that his ministry had information about a plan by the Panamanian brothers to escape from the Mariscal Zavala military barracks in Guatemala City, where they have been held since July 2020.
According to the Penitentiary System, due to the alleged plan, authorities searched the prison this Thursday, and the brothers were moved to another location in the same prison.
The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Pablo Castillo, confirmed that the change of location (from a comfortable cell within the area known as “VIP” to a dungeon adjacent to the men’s sector) occurred after the ministry “obtained information of an escape plan of the Martinelli brothers, through national intelligence systems and in coordination with international agencies”.
The alert, Castillo continued, “arose yesterday (Wednesday), so immediate actions were taken, and the security of the National Civil Police and the Ministry of Defense was reinforced to avoid any risk of escape in the place, as of 6:00 a.m. this Wednesday morning”.
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The Ministry of Interior filed “a complaint against the detention center director to clarify” alleged “anomalous procedures that are against the law,” Castillo added.
In addition to the danger of escape identified by the Interior, a search was also carried out in the maximum-security detention center, where nine children, children of some of the inmates, and some “spouses” were being held without permission, said Castillo, preliminarily.
THEY DENY THE ACCUSATIONS
The leader of the defense of the Martinelli brothers, Denis Cuesy, said that he was in prison at noon and considered that the alleged escape plan “is nothing more than a way to attract the attention of the media, the information is totally and completely false; they are two people alien to Guatemala, they have no family here, and they have no friends either”.
Cuesy wondered “what the brothers would be doing out of jail, in Guatemala. It is really a malicious invention, an unfounded punishment against two people who far from showing an active attitude within a process, have shown a passive and peaceful attitude within the penitentiary system”.
Questioned on whether the brothers or the defense has deliberately planned to delay the extradition process to the United States, Cuesy assured that the Martinelli brothers “had not dedicated themselves to anything. We, the defense attorneys, have done everything because if one is going to hire a professional for his defense, he lets himself go, otherwise why to hire him; it would be a huge waste of money”.
The lawyer assured me that the Martinelli Linares are “totally and completely surprised by the news that not even they were aware of and, regarding the escape plan, I am finding out now in the phone call. When I arrived at noon, they did not give me the information about this”.
He acknowledged that both sons of former President Martinelli are “physically and morally worn out. They are in bad conditions, after more than a year in prison”.
Another defense lawyer, attorney César Calderón, said that “there is no reason that they have been transferred to the dungeon, it is a violation of their rights. They are not troublemakers”.
According to the indictment of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York, which demands the extradition of both brothers, Martinelli Linares are responsible for the crime of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two crimes of concealment of information to that effect, between 2009 and 2015, during the presidency of his father, for amounts of less than one million dollars, in a case linked to the Brazilian company Odebrecht.
On July 6, 2020, the brothers were arrested in Guatemala when they were trying to return to their country in a private flight after almost a year of unknown whereabouts. Both are in the process of extradition.