Son of ex-president of Panama pleads guilty to money laundering

NEW YORK (AP) – A son of former President of Panama Ricardo Martinelli pleaded guilty on Tuesday in New York to laundering $ 28 million as part of a massive corruption scheme involving a global conglomerate of the construction based in Brazil.

Ricardo Martinelli Linares, 42, was extradited to the United States from Guatemala last week in a case involving construction company Odebrecht SA

His younger brother, Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, had previously followed the same path: he was extradited from Guatemala to the United States in November and pleaded guilty on December 2 to the same count of conspiracy to money laundering. silver.

Odebrecht’s scheme involved paying more than $ 700 million in bribes to government officials, officials, political parties and others in Panama and other countries to secure contracts for the company. The company pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiring to violate the anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Overseas Corrupt Practices Act.

A US judge had previously ordered the two brothers to be held without bail.

Prosecutors said an earlier attempt to finalize a plea negotiation in the case collapsed in June 2020 when the brothers crossed the U.S. border, traveled to the Bahamas by boat, and then boarded. a private jet to attempt to return to Panama.

When the plane was turned back due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, they found themselves in several Central American countries before entering Guatemala with invalid diplomatic credentials. They were arrested there, under an arrest warrant issued from New York, as they attempted to board a private family jet, destined to fly to Panama.

They spent more than a year in a Guatemalan prison, before being extradited to the United States

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie agreed with prosecutors on Tuesday that Martinelli Linares could not be released on a proposed $ 5 million bail due to the way he fled in 2020.

“He’s someone who planned an escape,” Dearie said. “Actions speak louder than words.”

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