Two Defendants Charged for Their Role in Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme Involving Former High-Ranking Government Official in Panama
Individuals Facilitated $28 Million in Bribes from Odebrecht S.A. to the Official
A criminal complaint was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares (Luis Martinelli Linares) and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares (Ricardo Martinelli Linares) for their roles in a massive bribery and money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate.
On Dec. 21, 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to a criminal information charging it with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its involvement in the bribery and money laundering scheme.
The overarching Odebrecht scheme involved the payment of more than $700 million in bribes to government officials, public servants, political parties, and others in Panama and other countries around the world to obtain and retain business for the company. The two individual defendants are alleged to have participated in the scheme by, among other things, serving as intermediaries for approximately $28 million in bribe payments made by and at the direction of Odebrecht to a then high-ranking government official in Panama (Panama Government Official), who was a close relative of the defendants. Luis Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Luis Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares were arrested at el Aeropuerto Internacional la Aurora in Guatemala on July 6 pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States.
As alleged in the complaint, between approximately August 2009 and January 2014, the defendants facilitated the payment of bribes from Odebrecht to or for the benefit of the Panama Government Official by taking a number of steps that included opening and managing secret bank accounts held in the names of shell companies in foreign jurisdictions. These secret bank accounts were used to receive, transfer, and deliver the bribe payments. The defendants served as the signatories on certain of the shell company bank accounts, and personally sent and caused to be sent wire transfers through the structure of shell company bank accounts to conceal and spend bribery proceeds. Many of these financial transactions were in U.S. dollars and were made through U.S. banks, some of which were located in New York.
The charges in the complaint announced today are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The FBI’s International Corruption squad in New York investigated this case. Trial Attorney Michael Culhane Harper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Trial Attorneys Barbara Levy and Michael Redmann of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alixandra Smith and Julia Nestor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case.
The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance. The Brazilian Ministerio Publico Federal, Departamento de Polícia Federal, law enforcement authorities in Guatemala including the Public Ministry of Guatemala and Specialized Unit for International Affairs, and law enforcement authorities in El Salvador provided significant cooperation.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.