The former Panamanian dictator, General Manual Noriega, whom most compliance officers remember was sentenced to seven years in a French prison, on money laundering charges, is now facing yet another trial, this time for murder, in a Panama court. Noriega, who laundered $3m through the purchase of two luxury apartments in Paris, is currently serving a 60-year sentence in Panama, on other homicide charges.
France consented to Noriega's extradition to his native Panama, after he had served only two years on the money laundering conviction. Originally, French sources stated that he was going to serve his full sentence, but reliable sources confirm that former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli threatened to interfere with the transit of French ships in the Panama Canal, unless the ex-dictator was extradited; Martinelli reportedly favored Noriega.
The new charges involve the 1970 murder of a prominent leftist leader, political opponent, Heliodoro Portugal. The trial date is May 21; Noriega's present attorney, Ezra Angel, has asserted that the case is a violation of the terms of his extradition from France, but it appears that the trial will occur on schedule. Whether this is intended to be a political statement, by the Varela government, to demonstrate its authority, remains to be seen.
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