Son of Panama ex-president pleads guilty to money laundering

Son of Panama ex-president pleads guilty to money laundering


NEW YORK (AP) — A son of Panama's former president, Ricardo Martinelli, pleaded guilty Tuesday in New York to laundering $28 million in connection with a massive bribery scheme involving a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate.

Ricardo Martinelli Linares, 42, was extradited to the U.S. last week from Guatemala in a case involving the construction company Odebrecht S.A.

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

Odebrecht’s 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 to obtain business for the company. The company pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiracy to violate anti-bribery provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

A U.S. judge had previously ordered both brothers held without bail.

Prosecutors said that an earlier attempt to finalize a plea bargain in the case fell apart in June of 2020 when the brothers slipped across the U.S. border, traveled to the Bahamas by boat, and then boarded a private jet in an attempt to return to Panama.

When the plane was turned away due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, they ended up in several Central American countries before entering Guatemala on invalid diplomatic credentials. They were arrested there, on an arrest warrant issued out of New York, when they attempted to board a private family jet, set to fly to Panama.

They spent more than a year in a Guatemalan prison, before being extradited to the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie agreed with prosecutors Tuesday that Martinelli Linares...

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