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Panama Asks US to Extradite Former President Martinelli

FILE - Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli answers questions during an interview at a hotel in Guatemala City, Jan. 28, 2015.

Panama has formally asked the United States to extradite former President Ricardo Martinelli to face charges of tapping opponents' and journalists' phones and emails while in power, a spokesman for Panama's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

The Foreign Ministry said it had formally filed the request with the State Department through the Panamanian Embassy in Washington.

Martinelli, a wealthy businessman who was in office from 2009 to 2014, is accused of using public money for illegal surveillance of more than 150 people. The former president said he was the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt.

He left Panama in January of last year and is believed to be living in Miami, Florida.