The U.S. Justice Department alleges that Luis and Ricardo Martinelli Linares were intermediaries for the payment of US$28 million in bribes from Odebrecht to high-ranking Panamanian officials.
On Tuesday, Luis Martinelli Linares, the son of Panama's former President Ricardo Martinelli, was extradited from Guatemala to the United States to be prosecuted for his involvement with a money-laundering scheme linked to the construction company Odebrecht.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleges the Martinellis were intermediaries for the payment of US$28 million in bribes from Odebrecht to high-ranking Panamanianofficials between 2009 and 2014.
Luis Martinelli Linares was detained in Guatemala in July 2020 along with his brother Ricardo, who is also awaiting extradition to the U.S for his involvement in the same case. Guatemalan authorities arrested them as they were trying to flee the country in a private plane.
Guatemala's Third Criminal Court ordered Martinelli’s extradition on May 25. Currently, the Prosecutor’s Office for the East District of New York is charging the Martinellis with conspiracy, money laundering, and withholding of information.
Odebrecht is a Brazil-based construction company with ties to countries all around the continent. In 2016, the U.S. Justice Department published a report that stated that the company had paid kickbacks to public officials in order to secure lucrative contracts.
The Brazilian construction company admitted to having paid US$788 million in bribes and agreed with the U.S. justice to pay a US$3.5 billion fine. In 2019 and 2020, the company declared bankrupt in order to restructure part of its debt.
Ex-President Martinelli is also a person of interest in the Odebrecht case, along with his successor: former President Juan Varela. Martinelli was extradited in 2018 from the U.S to Panama for allegedly wiretapping and spying on political adversaries, but was ultimately acquitted on Nov. 9, 2021.