Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, an indictment was unsealed charging Peter Weinzierl and Alexander Waldstein, both citizens of Austria, for their roles in a scheme to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate, in order to pay bribes around the world and defraud the Brazilian government. Weinzierl was arrested earlier today in the United Kingdom pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States. Waldstein remains at large.
Mark J. Lesko, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Nicholas L. McQuaid, Acting Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the indictment and arrest.
“As alleged, the defendants, high-ranking officials at an Austrian bank, brazenly assisted a large corporation in laundering millions of dollars through the United States financial system as part of a scheme to commit tax fraud on the Brazilian government,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Lesko. “This Office is committed to protecting the integrity of the U.S. financial system and will hold accountable those who seek to misuse it to defraud a foreign government.” Mr. Lesko thanked the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and the FBI for their work on the investigation.
As alleged in the indictment, Weinzierl served as chief executive officer and Waldstein served as an officer of an Austrian bank (the “Austrian Bank”), and both served as board members of an Antiguan bank (the “Antiguan Bank”). In and about and between 2006 and 2016, Weinzierl and Waldstein conspired with Odebrecht and others to launder money in a scheme to defraud Brazil’s tax authority of more than $100 million in taxes and to create off-books slush funds used by Odebrecht to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for the benefit of public officials around the world.
Specifically, Weinzierl, Waldstein, and their co-conspirators allegedly used fraudulent transactions and sham agreements to move more than $170 million from bank accounts in New York held in the name of Odebrecht, through the Austrian Bank, to offshore shell company bank accounts secretly owned and controlled by Odebrecht. As part of the scheme, Odebrecht used the slush funds funneled to the offshore shell company bank accounts to pay bribes. Odebrecht falsely recorded the hundreds of millions of dollars in international wire transfers sent to the Austrian Bank as legitimate business expenses and deducted the fraudulent payments from the overall profits that it reported in Brazil, thus reducing its tax liability and evading more than $100 million in taxes. Shell company bank accounts that were involved in the scheme, and used to pay bribes to foreign officials, were held at the Antiguan Bank, which was controlled by Weinzierl, Waldstein, and their co-conspirators and used to promote the scheme. Weinzierl and Waldstein also caused millions of dollars in criminal proceeds to be transferred from the Antiguan Bank to a brokerage account located in the United States to purchase U.S. Treasury securities and corporate stocks and bonds on U.S. exchanges. In exchange for their roles in the scheme, Weinzierl and Waldstein demanded and collected substantial fees for the benefit of the Austrian Bank and the Antiguan Bank.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The FBI’s International Corruption squad in New York is investigating this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Nestor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Trial Attorney Michael Culhane Harper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Michael B. Redmann of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Criminal Division and United Kingdom authorities provided significant assistance.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-CR-383 (RJD)