US Sentences Two Sons of Panamanian Ex-President

US Sentences Two Sons of Panamanian Ex-President

24 May 2022 (OCCPR)

A U.S. court sentenced on Friday two sons of a former president of Panama to three years in prison each for laundering money from bribes given by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA.

Luiz Enrique Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Enrique Martinelli Linares were found guilty of laundering US$28 million in the biggest Latin American bribery scandal, involving Odebrecht and government officials from 12 countries. The company paid those officials millions in exchange for lucrative public contracts.

In addition to the prison term, the Martinelli brothers were ordered to return nearly $20 million and pay a $250,000 fine.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the brothers laundered about $19 million in bribes through U.S. banks. Some of the proceeds were driven to sustain their luxurious lifestyle. Luis had purchased a $1.7 million yacht and a $1.3 million condominium in the U.S., while his older brother, Ricardo, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal expenses.

The Martinelli brothers used American banks to commit their selfish, greedy fraud, and the American legal system is punishing them now, the DOJ statement said.

The two had pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with others to establish offshore bank accounts in the name of shell companies, which they used to hide millions of dollars they received from Odebrecht during their father’s tenure in Panama (2009-2014).

Luiz’s lawyer said that the men acted on orders of their father.

“I really wanted to please him [the father], keep him happy, keep him proud (…) That does not mean that I am not responsible for my actions,” Luiz had declared in a New York federal court.

Their father, Panamanian former president Ricardo Martinelli has not been convicted of any crime, but remains under scrutiny in Panama in a separate case for alleged corruption related to Odebrecht.

Commenting on the sentence, he said he believed that the legal team representing them “obtained a favorable result, according to the circumstances, far removed from the excessive claims of the attorneys,” his spokesman Luis Camacho tweeted, referring to the fact that prosecution was seeking sentences between nine and 11 years.

The brothers were arrested about two years ago at an airport in Guatemala on request of the United States. The sons of the former president were spotted as they tried to board a humanitarian flight out of Central America.

In 2016, Odebrecht had pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to conspiring to violate the American foreign bribery law after an investigation into political kickbacks at Brazil’s Petrobras unearthed the bribery scheme.