On December 14, 2021, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Two weeks earlier, on December 1, 2021, his brother Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares had also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York in connection with the same conduct.
The Martinelli Linares brothers—who are the sons of former Panamanian president Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Berrocal—admitted to conspiring with each other and others to establish offshore bank accounts in the name of various shell companies for the purpose of receiving and concealing $28 million in the proceeds of bribe payments from Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht S.A. According to court documents, Odebrecht made these bribe payments to benefit an unnamed “high-ranking public official in Panama,” as part of more than $700 million in bribe payments Odebrecht made to government officials and others in Panama and other countries to obtain and retain business for Odebrecht. In connection with their guilty pleas, the Martinelli Linares brothers have agreed to forfeit nearly $19 million. They are scheduled to be sentenced in May 2022.
Odebrecht previously pleaded guilty in 2016 (also in the Eastern District of New York) to a criminal information charging the company with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Odebrecht and several of its subsidiaries also entered into settlements with Brazilian and Swiss authorities for their role in multinational bribery schemes, paying $2.6 billion in fines and suffering debarment by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks.