Panamanian Intermediary Charged with Money Laundering Extradited to the United States From Guatemala

BROOKLYN, NY – Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares (Luis Martinelli Linares) was extradited from Guatemala to the United States today on an indictment filed in federal court in Brooklyn charging him and his brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares (Ricardo Martinelli Linares), with money laundering offenses for their roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate.  Luis Martinelli Linares is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow before United States Magistrate Judge Marcia M. Henry.

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 extradition.

“The extradition of Luis Martinelli Linares to the Eastern District of New York is a significant first step in holding him accountable for allegedly laundering millions of dollars in bribe payments through bank accounts in New York and elsewhere,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “Combatting bribery and money laundering by extraditing and prosecuting corrupt foreign actors like Martinelli is a priority of the Department of Justice.”

“The successful extradition of Luis Martinelli Linares demonstrates the department’s commitment to work with our international partners to pursue, capture and extradite those who use the U.S. financial system to further their corrupt schemes and launder illicit funds,” stated AAG Polite. “Thanks to the efforts of our law enforcement partners in Guatemala, Luis Martinelli Linares will be held accountable in the United States for his alleged crimes.”

“Anyone who facilitates bribe payments to government officials contributes to national security risks, whether overtly or inadvertently, and interrupts the free market system of international trade,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll. “The FBI will use all available resources to put an end to this type of corrupt behavior.”

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 for its involvement in the bribery and money laundering scheme. 

The overarching Odebrecht 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 around the world to obtain and retain business for the company.  Luis Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares allegedly conspired with others to launder approximately $28 million in bribe payments made by and at the direction of Odebrecht to a then high-ranking government official in Panama (Panama Government Official), who was a close relative of the defendants. 

The defendants were initially charged by criminal complaint on June 27, 2020.  Pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States, they were arrested at el Aeropuerto Internacional la Aurora in Guatemala on July 6, 2020, as they were attempting to depart Guatemala on a private plane.  On February 4, 2021, Luis Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares were charged in a five-count indictment, which charged both defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of concealment money laundering; Luis Martinelli Linares was also charged with two counts of engaging in transactions in criminally derived property. 

On May 17, 2021, after several preliminary appeals were dismissed, the Guatemalan Fifth Criminal Sentencing Court granted the request by the United States to extradite Luis Martinelli Linares.  On June 21, 2021, the Guatemalan Court of Appeals, Criminal Branch affirmed the ruling of the Guatemalan criminal court granting extradition.  On October 15, 2021, the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified the United States, via diplomatic note, that the extradition was final and Luis Martinelli Linares was ready for surrender to the United States, resulting in his arrival in the United States earlier today.  The United States has also requested to extradite Ricardo Martinelli Linares, and those proceedings are ongoing.

The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

United States Attorney Peace and Assistant Attorney General Polite thanked the Government of Guatemala for its assistance in the extradition of Luis Martinelli Linares to the United States.  The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in securing the arrest of Luis Martinelli Linares.  The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in New York (ICS-NY) is investigating this case, and the NY-ICS, New York SWAT and FBI’s International Operations Division conducted the transport of Luis Martinelli Linares from Guatemala to the United States.”

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.

The Brazilian Ministerio Publico Federal, Departamento de Polícia Federal, law enforcement authorities in Guatemala including the Public Ministry of Guatemala and Specialized Unit for International Affairs, and law enforcement authorities in El Salvador provided significant cooperation.

The Defendants:

LUIS ENRIQUE MARTINELLI LINARES

Age: 39

Panama City, Panama

RICARDO ALBERTO MARTINELLI LINARES

Age: 42

Panama City, Panama

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

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