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FAYETTEVILLE -- Ricardo Martinelli, the former president of Panama who is fighting extradition while being held in a Miami federal detention center, no longer sits on a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville volunteer advisory board for the school's business dean.

Martinelli, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from UA in 1973, faces charges that include embezzlement. The accusations -- denied by Martinelli as being politically motivated -- relate to his time as president.

Matt Waller, dean of UA's Sam M. Walton College of Business, in a statement cited Martinelli's lack of participation in the advisory group as reason for his removal, saying Martinelli had not since 2013 attended a meeting of the Dean's Executive Advisory Board.

"He is the only member rolled off recently but more departures are being considered this spring," Waller said.

Martinelli was "rolled off" in mid-December, UA spokesman David Speer said. The group consists of approximately 60 members, mostly business executives, who are asked to meet twice a year.

Before turning to politics, Martinelli led a Panama supermarket chain. Martinelli was the first UA graduate to become a head of state, serving as Panama's president from 2009-14, and his public ties to UA increased with his profile.

He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from UA in 2013, the same year he joined the business dean's advisory group. Gift amounts from Martinelli to UA -- which enrolled 136 students from Panama this fall, up from three in 2010 -- totaled $200,000, not including a scholarship established in his name, based on documents released by UA last year.

UA spokesman Mark Rushing said Martinelli remains a volunteer leader for UA's Campaign Arkansas fundraising drive to raise $1 billion. Rushing in an email said volunteers "generally remain" on the committee list for the life of the campaign unless they specifically ask otherwise but that Martinelli "hasn't been actively involved" for several years.

Martinelli, 65, was arrested on June 12 in Florida.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres in August granted an order certifying Martinelli's extradition. In his order, he described the extradition hearing he presided over as "akin to a preliminary hearing, where the primary purpose is to decide if there is sufficient evidence of the charge under the applicable treaty -- not guilt or innocence."

Torres wrote that Martinelli is wanted in Panama on four charges: interception of telecommunications without judicial authorization; tracking, persecution and surveillance without judicial authorization; embezzlement by theft and misappropriation; and embezzlement of use.

A court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 23 on a petition filed by Martinelli, according to Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos with the U.S. attorney's office in Florida.

Torres also wrote that Martinelli in 2015 filed an application for asylum.

Apart from those efforts, a "last ditch political appeal" could be made to the U.S. State Department, said John Parry, a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon who studies extradition law. But before the now-completed extradition hearing began, "the State Department would have made a decision to go forward," Parry said, calling it "very rare for the Secretary of State not to approve the extradition at the end of the process."

Metro on 01/07/2018

Print Headline: Jailed UA grad Martinelli removed from advisory board

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