US set to impose sanctions on hundreds of corrupt individuals


Although following US sanctions imposed on Russia and several Russian nationals following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, authorities in Washington are already assessing the negative impact of these sanctions on the US and global economy, key policymakers in Washington are currently putting focus on bringing a large number of individuals and organizations under fresher sanctions on allegations of rampant corruption.

Last week the US Department of Treasury has imposed sanctions on Paraguay’s former president Horacio Cartes and four of his companies, and accused Cartes of engaging in corruption before, during and after his term as president. At the same time the US barred former president of Panama Ricardo Martinell from entering the country, “for his involvement in significant corruption”, according to a designation by the Department of State.

The US has accused Martinelli, who was in office from 2009 to 2014, of accepting bribes in exchange for improperly awarding government contracts during his presidency. “Such acts of public corruption diminish confidence in governance and reduce resources available for schools, hospitals, roads, and other government services”, said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.

In December 2021, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, who also featured in the Pandora Papers, pleaded guilty to laundering US$28 million in bribes paid by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to a Panamanian official during their father’s presidency. Although federal court documents didn’t identify the Panamanian official by name, only saying the person was a “close relative” of the Martinelli brothers, a press release from the US embassy in Panama identified Martinelli as the beneficiary of the bribes. A defense attorney for one of Martinelli’s sons told a federal judge in May 2022 that the brothers were “roped into this money laundering conspiracy … by their father … who was the recipient of the Odebrecht bribes”, according to a court transcript.

Martinelli and his sons Luis and Ricardo are among dozens facing Odebrecht-related charges in Panama. The former president is also expected to stand trial for accusations of money laundering in another corruption case. Despite his legal troubles, Martinelli is seeking a second presidential term at the 2024 general elections.

In a statement posted Thursday on Twitter, a spokesperson said Martinelli and his legal team denied there was evidence to prove the accusations against him.

The US embassy in Panama suggested that more corruption designations should be expected. “I know how concerned Panamanians are about corruption and fighting it is one of our priorities as an embassy because corruption undermines the well-being of the population, the economy and democracy”, ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte said in a statement. “This will not be our last designation in Panama”.

According to sources in the US Capitol, the Department of Treasury and State Department are currently working on imposing sanctions on dozens of individuals from around the world, including Bangladesh under the Global Magnitsky Act. Sanctions under Magnitsky Act target those responsible for corruption, in addition to human rights violations.

The Magnitsky Sanctions represents the implementation of multiple legal authorities. Some of these authorities are in the form of executive orders issued by the President. Other authorities are public laws (statutes) passed by The US Congress.

The source further said, the US authorities are collecting information on corrupt individuals, money-launderers and those who have purchased properties or invested in businesses in the United States with dirty cash. Reports published by the Transparency International, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and media reports are considered as major source of information to the US authorities in determining names for bringing under sanctions. Once sanctions are imposed on allegations of corruption and money-laundering, authorities will confiscate properties, investments and freeze bank accounts of the individuals concerned.

While there is general perception that the United States imposes sanction on International Human Rights Day on December 10 every year, for imposing sanctions on allegations of corruption and money-laundering takes place round the year.


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