PANAMA CITY - A Panamanian judge summoned former President Ricardo Martinelli to stand trial for a money laundering charge, investigators said on Friday.

Martinelli, who was in office from 2009 to 2014, is accused of laundering public funds through the purchase of a news outlet during his term. Nearly 20 others are charged in connection with the "New Business" case, as it is known.

In a statement earlier on Friday, Panama's judiciary said arguments presented in a preliminary case in November showed that the funds used in the purchase were of illegal origin.

This is the second trial against Martinelli announced this year, and he is expected to testify in both in 2023.

Martinelli and his sons, Luis and Ricardo, are also charged in Panama for their alleged involvement in laundering millions of dollars in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

The two sons are currently serving prison sentences in the United States for their involvement in the scandal, which rocked South America.

Martinelli, who maintains his innocence, claims he is being politically targeted and has declared his intention to run as a candidate in the 2024 presidential elections.

(Reporting by Eli Moreno; Writing by Kylie Madry; Editing by Sandra Maler)