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U.S. Marshals arrest former Panama president who helped launch Trump’s first international property

Ricardo Martinelli, who ruled Panama from 2009 to 2014 but fled to Florida in 2015 facing multiple corruption charges, was arrested on Monday night by U.S. Marshals at his home in Coral Gables. The Central American country sent a extradition request to the U.S. last fall. As Fast Company‘s Anna Lenzer reported in March, the extradition request highlighted the Trump administration’s potential conflicts of interest due to Martinelli’s ties to Trump. 

Back in 2011, Martinelli appeared with Trump at the opening of the Ocean Club in Panama City, Trump’s first international real estate deal, where the two men affectionately praised each other. And before fleeing Panama, “Martinelli sat on the board of a bank that became the co-trustee for the Ocean Club, a role that left it in charge of managing funds coming in from rentals and sales, and of disbursing money to Trump, who gets millions in fees from the project,” reported Lenzer. The Ocean Club has been Trump’s largest individual source of branding fees, reportedly earning the Trump Organization at least $50 million on the project. 

Martinelli is expected to appear before a judge for an extradition hearing today. He has long denied wrongdoing. “The defense for ex-president Martinelli is going to exercise all the rights and guarantees offered under the rule of law,” his lawyer Carlos Carillo said. Carillo also described as “totally false” reports that Martinelli’s request for political asylum had been denied. Soon after Trump’s election, Martinelli seemed confident that he remained in Trump’s good graces, tweeting his congratulations and showing off an image of an invitation to an inaugural ball (though it’s unclear if he attended).MB