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Panama Ex-President Martinelli Arrested in Florida Amid Spying Allegations

by Donna Paine and Alastair Jamieson /  / Updated 
Ricardo Martinelli in 2013Carlos Jasso / Reuters

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MIAMI — Panama's exiled former president was arrested in Florida late Monday after being accused of political espionage by his successor in the Central American nation.

Ricardo Martinelli was detained near his home in Coral Gables and was being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden told NBC News.

 Ricardo Martinelli in 2013 Carlos Jasso / Reuters

Martinelli served as head of state from 2009-2014.

He was expected to appear before a federal judge Tuesday for an extradition hearing, according to Golden.

The request to arrest Martinelli was made though Interpol and he is not facing any U.S. charges, officials said.

Details of the charges were due to be disclosed at Tuesday's hearing.

The Panamanian supermarket tycoon has been living in the U.S. for two years since his country’s top court opened an investigation into allegations that he embezzled public money and spied on political opponents, Reuters and the Miami Herald reported.

Martinelli has denied any wrongdoing. In a Twitter post last month, he alleged that his successor, Juan Carlos Varela, was going after him to divert attention from his own problems.

Varela served as Martinelli's vice president but they have sparred bitterly since the transfer of power.

Donna Paine reported from Miami. Alastair Jamieson reported from London. Reuters contributed to this report.

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