US arrests former Panama president sought for extradition

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Fugitive former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, wanted by the Central American nation on charges of political espionage, was arrested by U.S. authorities on Monday near Miami, officials for U.S. Marshals Service said. U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Manny Puri says Martinelli was in custody Monday evening at a federal detention center in Miami.

In 2015, Panama's Supreme Court ordered Mr Martinelli's arrest over the accusations that he used public funds to illegally spy on more than 150 prominent people. The former president initially settled in the Atlantis, a luxury condominium tower on Miami's Brickell Avenue.

In September 2016, the Central American nation sent an extradition request to the US for the return of Martinelli.

Interpol also issued a notice for Martinelli's arrest last month.

Panama asked the United States to extradite Martinelli last September, but the former president has fought the request, arguing that there are no legal grounds to send him home. As per reports, Martinelli was arrested near Miami. The arrest warrant will remain under seal until then, he said.

The former president from 2009-2014 has denied wrongdoing and contends the case is political persecution by his successor.

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