Panamanian Extradited on Charges of Money Laundering for Odebrecht
A Panamanian national was extradited from Guatemala to the United States on Monday for alleged money laundering and bribery offences totalling roughly US$28 million linked to the Brazilian-based Odebrecht S.A. corruption scandal, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares was officially charged in February earlier this year for conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as for concealment to commit money laundering. He also faces charges for engaging in business dealings with property obtained through criminal means.
His brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, was similarly indicted on the same money laundering charges.
The two were originally detained at Guatemala’s Aurora International Airport in July last year, where they attempted to board a private plane set to leave the country.
“The extradition of Luis Martinelli Linares to the Eastern District of New York is a significant first step in holding him accountable for allegedly laundering millions of dollars in bribe payments through bank accounts in New York and elsewhere,” said United States Attorney Breon Peace.
Both Luis and Ricardo are suspected of being involved in the Odebrecht corruption scandal.
Odebrecht — now known as Novonor — is a Brazilian conglomerate which consists of multiple businesses specializing in engineering, construction, energy, and petrochemicals. The company is renowned for its involvement in what many call the one of the biggest corruption cases in history.
It is estimated that the Brazilian conglomerate paid over $700 million in bribes to government officials, public servants, and political parties around the world in order to obtain and retain business for the company.
As for the Martinelli Linares brothers, authorities say that they developed a conspiracy with others to launder roughly $28 million in bribery payments to a then high-ranking government official in Panama on behalf of Odebrecht.
Reportedly, the government official is a close relative of theirs, according to the DOJ.
Their father happens to be former Panamanian president Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal. It is not stated if Martinelli is the government official referenced in the DOJ press release.
The Martinelli Linares brothers are far from the first to be accused of having a role in the Odebrecht corruption scandal.
Last month, Jose Carlos Grubisich, a former CEO of a Brazilian petrochemical company - of which Odebrecht was its holding company - was sentenced in New York to 20 months in prison for conspiring to use $250 million of his company’s money to bribe Brazilian government officials.
In August, also of this year, former Mexican presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya was accused of accepting a $525,000 bribe from Odebrecht.
Just days before the accusations came to light, it was discovered that he had fled the country.
Anaya, however, released a video stating that the charges were lies and politically motivated by current Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.