Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, son to former Panamanian President Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, was extradited to the United States on Monday to face money laundering charges. Pool File Photo by Win McNamee/UP
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Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Guatemala has extradited to the United States the son of a former Panamanian president on accusations of conspiring to launder millions of dollars in bribes as part of a scheme that has embroiled several high-ranking Latin American government officials.
The Justice Department announced that Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares, 39, was extradited to the United States on Monday to face an indictment filed against him and his 42-year-old brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, on money laundering offenses.
The pair, sons to former Panamanian President Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, were arrested in July of last year at a Guatemala airport on request by the United States on charges of laundering some $28 million in bribe payments made by and at the direction of Brazilian-based construction company Odebrecht during their father's 2009-2014 term.
Odebrecht pleaded guilty in December of 2016 for using employees and agents to conduct a massive bribery scheme in which it paid more than $700 million in bribes to public and foreign officials to obtain and retain business advantages around the world.
The charging document states the brothers laundered the money as part of the scheme for the benefit of an unnamed close relative who was also a high-ranking Panama government official through managing secret bank accounts held in the names of shell companies.
"Many of these financial transactions were in U.S. dollars and were made through U.S. banks, some of which were located in New York," the Justice Department said.
Prosecutors said Luis Martinelli Linares enriched himself by millions of dollars through the scheme, which he spent on luxury items such as a yacht and a Miami condominium.
According to a court document filed Monday by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in support of the court issuing a permanent order for his detention, Luis Martinelli Linares had engaged U.S. counsel in plea discussions in June of last year prior to his arrest but slipped across the U.S. border into the Bahamas by boat where a private jet attempted to return him to Panama.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the plane landed in Costa Rica and then El Salvador from where he traveled by car in hopes of getting to Panama but was arrested in Guatemala while attempting to board a private family yet.
Odebrecht was ordered to pay at least $3.5 billion in penalties as part of its plea deal to resolve charges in its global bribery scheme that ran from at least 2001 and has implicated former government leaders, including former Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and former Peruvian President Alan Garcia who died by self-inflicted gunshot wound in April of 2019 as police arrived to arrest him on bribery charges.