Ex-Panama President’s Sons Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in the U.S.

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The two sons of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli were extradited to the US last year to face charges stemming from a bribery scheme involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht

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Ricardo Alberto Martinelli and Luis Enrique Martinelli will also each pay a $250,000 fine and nearly $19 million in cumulative forfeiture, as well as forfeit various assets, including a Miami condo, according to court filings. The sentencing hearing was held before US District Judge Raymond Dearie.

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“We are pleased that Judge Dearie imposed a sentence that will allow our clients to soon return home to their loved ones,” Sean Hecker, a lawyer for Ricardo Martinelli, said in an emailed statement following the hearing. He noted that the brothers had already served almost two years of their sentence.

A lawyer for Luis Martinelli didn’t return a request for comment.

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The two brothers were charged in 2020 with helping launder as much as $28 million in bribe payments allegedly made by Odebrecht—now named Novonor—to an unidentified high-level Panamanian government official described by prosecutors as their close relative.

Their father, former President Martinelli, hasn’t been directly named in the US court documents charging his sons with a money-laundering conspiracy. He was extradited from Florida in 2017 to face wiretapping charges but was later acquired.

The Martinelli brothers resided in the Miami area when they were indicted by Panamanian officials on money-laundering charges in February 2017. They soon entered into talks with the Justice Department to resolve charges in the US stemming from the Odebrecht case.

But shortly before reaching an agreement, the two brothers in June 2020 slipped across the US border and traveled to the Bahamas by boat, where they boarded a personal jet in an attempt to travel to Panama, according to accounts by prosecutors and their lawyers.

The Martinelli brothers would likely have made it to Panama, according to a lawyer for Luis Martinelli, if not for coronavirus-related travel restrictions that forced their plane to make a temporary stop in Guatemala City, where they were arrested minutes before their jet was about to depart.

The sentencing of the two brothers closes chapter of a far-reaching corruption probe into Odebrecht, which, along with one of its subsidiaries, agreed in 2016 to pay billions of dollars in fines in the US to resolve it had bribed public officials in Brazil and elsewhere to win lucrative infrastructure contracts.

An independent monitor imposed on Odebrecht as part of those settlements ended oversight of the company in 2020, after certifying at the time that the company’s anticorruption compliance program was adequate. Odebrecht that year changed its name to Novonor.

Write to Dylan Tokar at [email protected]

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Credit: www.wsj.com /

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