The son of Panama’s ex-president Ricardo Martinelli was arraigned Saturday by a Brooklyn court on charges of conspiracy to launder tens of millions of dollars in bribes.
The defendant, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares, was extradited to the United States after being captured in Guatemala in 2020 at Washington’s request. His arraignment was virtual due to pandemic-era measures.
His lawyer said Ricardo Alberto has signed a plea agreement and is expected to formally enter a guilty plea during a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
The judge declared him a flight risk and ruled he will be detained at least until after that hearing.
The US case against Martinelli and his brother Luis Enrique is linked to the wider investigation into the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.
Prosecutors say the brothers allowed millions of dollars to be paid into secret bank accounts in the name of ghost companies.
Luis Enrique was extradited to the US last month and pleaded guilty in the US Eastern District court to conspiring with his brother to launder more than $28 million in bribes from Odebrecht “for the benefit of his close relative, a high-ranking public official in Panama” from 2009 to 2014.
Federal prosecutors used similar language in detailing Ricardo Alberto’s case.
Investigations into Odebrecht have tarnished many leaders and political parties in Latin America. Former bosses of the company have admitted in court to illegally distributing millions of dollars of bribes in exchange for public contracts.
Former president Martinelli is himself under investigation in the Odebrecht scandal, but has announced his intention to seek re-election in 2024.
In 2016, Odebrecht and the petrochemical affiliate Braskem agreed to pay $3.5 billion in penalties after pleading guilty in the Eastern District court.