Second son of Panama’s former President pleads “guilty” for corruption

Second son of Panama’s former President pleads “guilty” for corruption

Ricardo Martinelli, the second son of Panama’s former president, pled guilty to laundering $28 million in connection with a massive bribery conspiracy involving the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA.

After being extradited to the United States from Guatemala on Friday, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, 42, filed his plea in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday.

Luis Enrique Martinelli, his younger brother, had previously taken the same route: he was extradited from Guatemala in November and pled guilty on December 2 to the identical count of money laundering conspiracy.

More than $700 million in bribes were paid to government officials, public servants, political parties, and others in Panama and other countries as part of Odebrecht’s scam. In 2016, the firm admitted to conspiring to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s anti-bribery provisions.

According to US authorities, from 2009 to 2014, the Martinelli brothers laundered money from bribes paid to a close relative, who was only identified as a high-ranking government official in Panama.

Ricardo Martinelli, the former President of Panama, ruled from 2009 to 2014. In November, he was cleared of charges that he tapped the phones of opponents and journalists in Panama. He has stated that he intends to run for president again in 2024.

Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, dressed in a light green prison uniform, answered inquiries with “Yes, your honour” at Tuesday’s court hearing before US District Judge Raymond Dearie.

Prosecutors said an earlier attempt to reach an agreement fell through in June 2020, when the brothers crossed the US border, travelled to the Bahamas by boat, and then boarded a private plane to return to Panama.

When the jet was turned away owing to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the passengers were forced to travel through numerous Central American countries before entering Guatemala using forged diplomatic credentials. They were apprehended while attempting to board a private family jet bound for Panama on an arrest warrant filed in New York.

They were imprisoned in Guatemala for over a year before being extradited to the United States.

Last month, a lawyer representing Luis Enrique Martinelli, 39, said that the brothers fled because the US government refused to give them with deportation protection while they were negotiating a plea deal.

Because of the way Ricardo Alberto Martinelli escaped in 2020, Dearie agreed with prosecutors on Tuesday that he couldn’t be freed on a $5 million requested bond.

“This is someone who devised a plot to flee,” Dearie explained. “Actions are more powerful than words.”

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