July 4, 2015 / 2:12 AM / in 2 years

Panama top court approves third probe against ex-president Martinelli

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama’s Supreme Court on Friday approved a third investigation against ex-president Ricardo Martinelli, this time on suspicion he issued illegal pardons to allies while in office between 2009 and 2014.

Martinelli, who is already facing investigation for alleged corruption and phone-tapping, is suspected of issuing more than 350 illegal pardons towards the close of his presidency, according to the Panamanian public prosecutor’s office.

The multimillionaire supermarket tycoon, who has been out of the Central American country since late January, has denied any wrongdoing. He accuses his successor and adversary, President Juan Carlos Varela, of going after him for political reasons.

The electoral authority withdrew Martinelli’s immunity from prosecution in April, but he currently has protection over the alleged pardons and phone-taps until the center-right Democratic Change party he leads holds its primaries in October.

Of the three investigations, only the one into alleged corruption has got underway. It centers on allegations that Martinelli approved multi-million dollar purchases of dried food at inflated prices as part of a government welfare program.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Michael Perry

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