On July 6th, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the arrest of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli’s sons connected to a money laundering and bribery scheme. Since 2017, the Panamanian government sought to arrest Luis Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Martinelli Linares after the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht, pled guilty to violating the anti-bribery statutes of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The company filed for bankruptcy soon after. The Martinelli’s were stopped at the el Aeropuerto Internacional la Aurora in Guatemala City as they were attempting to board a private plane headed for Panama. They were arrested on a U.S. provisional arrest request and extradited to Brooklyn, NY, on July 6. There, both brothers were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The FCPA complaint alleges that both men facilitated bribes for Odebrecht between August 2009 and January 2014 with shell companies and secret bank accounts. During this time, they allegedly transferred over $28 million to an unnamed high-ranking Panamanian Government Official. Using shell companies, the brothers allegedly sent bribe money to the Official in exchange for business for Odebrecht. Much of the bribe money was reportedly in U.S. dollars and traveled through New York banks, further strengthening the case under the FCPA, which has jurisdiction if any money used for bribes passes through the U.S. or its banks.
Ricardo Martinelli governed Panama from 2009 to 2014. He was on house arrest in the U.S. between 2017 and 2019 for alleged misuse of public funds and political espionage. He was later found not guilty of those charges and released.