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Press Release

Panamanian Intermediaries Each Sentenced to 36 Months for International Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares (Luis Martinelli Linares) and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares (Ricardo Martinelli Linares) were each sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for their roles in a massive bribery and money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate.  The proceedings were held before United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kenneth A. Polite Jr., Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the sentences.

“The Martinelli brothers used American banks to commit their selfish, greedy fraud – and now it is the American legal system serving justice with today’s sentencing, especially for the people of Panama,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Together, the Department of Justice, this Office and our law enforcement partners stand firm against international corruption and will use all tools at our disposal to root it out.”

“Ricardo and Luis Martinelli Linares directed millions of dollars in bribes through U.S. banks to their own Swiss accounts in order to help Odebrecht gain corrupt influence at the highest levels of the Panamanian government,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s sentences show that the Department of Justice remains committed to prosecuting individuals who enable and profit from laundering corrupt payments to foreign officials through the U.S. financial system, as well as those who attempt to spend the proceeds of corruption in the United States.”

“The defendants laundered millions of dollars in bribes through the U.S. financial system to benefit a close relative and maintain their luxury lifestyles,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Today’s sentencing shows that the FBI and our law enforcement partners are committed to bringing to justice anyone who enables the corruption of public officials for personal gain.”

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.  On December 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 for its involvement in the bribery and money laundering scheme. 

In December 2021, both defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and admitted that they had agreed with others to establish offshore bank accounts in the names of shell companies to receive and disguise over $28 million in bribe proceeds from Odebrecht for the benefit of a close relative, a high-ranking public official in Panama.  According to court documents, approximately $19 million of the bribes were transferred through U.S. banks.  Luis Martinelli Linares also used some of the proceeds of the scheme to purchase a $1.7 million yacht and a $1.3 million condominium in the United States, and Ricardo Martinelli Linares spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds to pay personal expenses. 

Luis Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares were initially arrested at el Aeropuerto Internacional la Aurora in Guatemala on July 6, 2020, pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States, as they were attempting to depart Guatemala on a private plane.  The defendants were charged on February 4, 2021, in an indictment in connection with this bribery and money laundering scheme.  Both defendants were ultimately extradited from Guatemala. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alixandra Smith of the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section, Trial Attorney Michael Culhane Harper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and Trial Attorneys Michael Redmann and Barbara Levy of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.  Assistant United States Attorneys Laura Mantell and Tanisha Payne of the Office’s Asset Recovery Section are handling forfeiture matters.  The FBI’s International Corruption Unit in New York is investigating this case.

The Defendants:

Age: 40
Panama City, Panama

Age: 43
Panama City, Panama

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-65 (RJD)


John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated May 20, 2022

Asset Forfeiture
Securities, Commodities, & Investment Fraud
Public Corruption