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Ricardo Martinelli Linked to SAP Software Bribery Scheme in U.S. Investigation




Courtesy: Ricardo-Martinelli

In a recent development, a U.S. federal judge has implicated Ricardo Martinelli, the former president of Panama, as one of the alleged co-conspirators in a bribery scheme that facilitated the sale of millions of dollars in software to Panama by the German software company SAP. This revelation, not previously disclosed, emerged in a document scrutinized by Reuters. Martinelli, who is already facing unrelated corruption and misconduct charges in Panama, was named as a co-conspirator in the U.S. bribery case against Vicente Garcia, a former executive at SAP.

Garcia, aged 65, was sentenced to 22 months in prison on December 16 by a U.S. court in Northern District of California. He had pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Panamanian officials to secure contracts for SAP software. In the sentencing order issued by Judge Charles R. Breyer, Garcia was directed to avoid contact with “any co-conspirator in this case,” naming Martinelli and six others, as a condition of his future supervised release. Although the document was publicly released on December 22, it was later sealed.

It’s important to note that Martinelli has not been formally charged with any wrongdoing in Garcia’s case. A spokesperson for Martinelli stated that the former president had never met Garcia. SAP, the software company, confirmed Garcia’s termination in April 2014 and emphasized its cooperation with the ongoing investigation. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in a parallel investigation, highlighted Garcia’s manipulation of SAP’s internal controls to facilitate the bribe payments. The U.S. Justice Department has refrained from providing further comments on the ongoing SAP investigation, and SAP itself has not faced any charges.

Garcia confessed to using bribes to secure a software contract for Panama’s social security agency between 2009 and 2013. This scheme resulted in a $14.5 million contract for an SAP reseller and approximately $2.1 million in software sales for SAP, facilitated by the bribes. Martinelli’s attorney in Panama, Rogelio Cruz, dismissed the allegations as politically motivated, asserting the lack of evidence against the former president. Another U.S.-based attorney for Martinelli denied any knowledge of Garcia and stressed that contracts of this nature would not typically reach the president’s desk. Martinelli, now residing in Miami, has not been approached by U.S. law enforcement authorities regarding this issue. Meanwhile, Garcia claimed in court records that Martinelli was the senior official involved, with payments made through Martinelli’s brother-in-law, Aaron Mizrachi, who allegedly received a commission.

As Martinelli’s name resurfaces in this case, he continues to face multiple corruption investigations in Panama, including allegations of insider trading, misuse of public funds, and accepting bribes. Despite these accusations, he has not been formally charged in connection with these ongoing investigations. Martinelli, once a prominent businessman before his presidency, currently resides in a luxurious Miami apartment building, a stark contrast to his current legal challenges.

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