US

Official: Panama asks US to extradite ex-prez Martinelli

An official in Panama says the country is formally asking the United States to extradite former President Ricardo Martinelli in connection with a phone-tapping controversy.

The case involves allegations that the phones of dozens of business, opposition and labor leaders were tapped by Martinelli's 2009-2014 government.

A high-ranking official in current President Juan Carlos Varela's administration confirmed Tuesday that the extradition request had been formally made late Monday. The official was not authorized to be quoted by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Martinelli has denied any wrongdoing. Spokesman Luis Eduardo Camacho said via Twitter that the request was illegal.

In December a detention order was issued for the 63-year-old Martinelli after he failed to appear in court. He is believed to be living in Miami.