Son of ex-Panamanian president pleads guilty to money laundering | Politics

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.

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

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

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

U.S. prosecutors say the Martinelli Linares brothers laundered money from bribes paid to a relative, identified only as a senior Panamanian government official from 2009 to 2014.

Former Panamanian President Martinelli served from 2009 to 2014. He was acquitted in November in Panama of charges of wiretapping the phones of opponents and journalists. He has said he hopes to run for president again in 2024.

Dressed in a light green prison uniform, Martinelli Linares repeated “Yes, your honor” to questions put to him during Tuesday’s court proceedings by US District Judge Raymond Dearie.

The two brothers are being held without bail.

Prosecutors said an earlier attempt to finalize a plea bargain collapsed in June 2020 when the brothers crossed the U.S. border, traveled to the Bahamas by boat, 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

A lawyer for Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, 39, said last month that the brothers fled because the US government failed to provide them with protection from deportation while they negotiated a plea deal.

Dearie agreed with prosecutors on Tuesday that Martinelli Linares could not be released on a proposed $ 5 million bail due to the way he escaped in 2020.

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

Martinelli Linares will not be sentenced until next May at least. In his plea deal, he agreed to give up nearly $ 19 million.

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