US ties ex-Panamanian president to SAP software bribery scheme

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY: A US federal judge identified the former president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, as one of several alleged co-conspirators in a bribery scheme that helped SAP to sell millions of dollars in software to Panama, according to a document reviewed by Reuters.

The reference to Martinelli as a co-conspirator, which has not been previously reported, comes as the former president faces unrelated allegations of corruption and misconduct in Panama – accusations he has said are politically motivated.

Martinelli’s name came to light in the US bribery case against Vicente Garcia, a former executive at SAP, the German software company. Garcia, 65, was sentenced to 22 months in prison on Dec. 16 by a US court in the Northern District of California, after pleading guilty to conspiring to bribe Panamanian officials to secure contracts for SAP software.

In Judge Charles R. Breyer’s order on sentencing, he instructed Garcia to avoid contact with “any co-conspirator in this case,” naming Martinelli and six others, as a condition of his future supervised release. That order was released publicly on Dec. 22, before being sealed by the following day.

Martinelli has not been charged with any wrongdoing in Garcia’s case. A US attorney for Martinelli said the former president had never met Garcia.

An SAP spokesman said the company fired Garcia in April 2014 and is cooperating in the ongoing investigation. The spokesman pointed out that the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which conducted a parallel investigation, has said Garcia "circumvented SAP's internal controls” to fund the bribe payments.

A US Justice Department spokesman said the SAP investigation is ongoing and declined to comment further.

SAP has not been charged.

People familiar with the case confirmed that whether Martinelli received bribe payments in the scheme has been part of the Justice Department’s investigation.