Panamanian Illegal Spying Investigation Engulfs Former President

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Panama’s attorney general has announced that its office will investigate the illegal spying conducted by the administration of former President Ricardo Martinelli to its logical conclusion. The announcement came hours after members of Martinelli’s security team were arrested.

A relative of Martinelli, Councilor Alejandro Garuz, is detained in Panama’s Gran Joya prison, accused of violating privacy laws, and attended a judicial hearing Wednesday. He is accused of illegally spying on more than 150 politicians, judges, journalists, NGOs, business people, and opponents of the government. Former police chief Gustavo Perez has also faced scrutiny for the alleged spying.

Many accuse Martinelli of having instigated or at least been knowledgeable of the illegal spying.

Investigators have found that the Martinelli administration bought Israeli equipment, said to be used in the spying, through Panama’s National Assistance welfare agency.

In reaction to the allegations toward him and the accused, Martinelli appeared on his own television network, Nextv, and called current President Juan Carlos Varela a “dictator” who hate his political opponents and “does not listen.”

Varela served as vice-president for part of Martinelli’s time in office, before leaving due to what he perceived as corruption in the administration. Varela was elected president in May 2014, beating the Cambio Democratic Party ticket that included Martinelli’s wife as vice-president on its ticket.

For more information on living, investing, and traveling in Panama, read the monthly Panama Letter from Live and Invest Overseas or find out more at the 2015 Live and Invest in Panama Conference.

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