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Press Release

Panamanian Intermediary Pleads Guilty for His Role in an International Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

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

BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares (Luis Martinelli Linares) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering for his role in a massive bribery and money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate.  The proceeding was 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 guilty plea.

The Odebrecht scheme involved a conspiracy to pay 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. 

At today’s plea hearing, Luis Martinelli Linares admitted that he entered into a conspiracy with his brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares (Ricardo Martinelli Linares), and others, to establish offshore bank accounts in the names of shell companies in order to receive and disguise over $28 million in bribe proceeds from Odebrecht for the benefit of his close relative, a high-ranking public official in Panama.  To advance the scheme, Luis Martinelli Linares admitted that he and others caused Odebrecht bribe funds to be wired into and out of the United States and used certain wire transfers involving the proceeds of the scheme to purchase a yacht and a condominium in the United States.

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.  The United States has also requested to extradite Ricardo Martinelli Linares, and those proceedings are ongoing.

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 Barbara Levy and Michael Redmann of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.  Assistant United States Attorney Laura Mantell of the Office’s Civil Division is handling forfeiture matters.  The FBI’s International Corruption Unit in New York is investigating this case.

The Defendants:

Age: 39
Panama City, Panama

Age: 42
Panama City, Panama

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


Updated December 2, 2021

Foreign Corruption