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Martinelli Brothers Sentenced To Prison In Connection With Odebrecht Bribery Scheme


As highlighted here, in November 2021 announced the unsealing of a 2020 criminal complaint against agents associated with Odebrecht in connection with the company’s 2016 FCPA enforcement action (see here for the prior post).

Brothers Luis Enrique Martinelli Linares and Ricardo Alberto Martinelli Linares (both citizens of Panama and Italy and the sons of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli) allegedly “participated in the Odebrecht bribery scheme by, among other things, serving as intermediaries for bribe payments and the provision of other things of value that Odebrecht offered and provided to the Panama Government Official (their father). The complaint alleged that, among other things, the defendants “established offshore bank accounts in the names of offshore shell companies to receive and disguise bribe payments from Odebrecht made for the benefit of the Panama Government Official.

The brothers pleaded guilty and were recently sentenced to 36 months in prison and were ordered to forfeit more than $18.8 million, pay a $250,000 fine, and serve two years’ supervised release. (See here for the DOJ release).

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Grubisich Sentenced To 20 Months (Judge Rejects DOJ’s 60 Month Recommendation)


As highlighted in this prior post, in late 2016 the DOJ and SEC brought a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against Odebrecht S.A. (a Brazilian holding company) and Braskem S.A. (a Brazil-based petrochemical company with shares traded on the NYSE in which Odebrecht owned a majority of voting shares).

The conduct at issue was egregious and largely centered on a business unit, the Division of Structured Operations, housed within an Odebrecht subsidiary that allegedly served as little more than a bribe-paying department for the benefit of Odebrecht and Braskem. According to the resolution documents, former senior executives authorized approximately $788 million in bribes, largely through the Division of Structured Operations, to alleged foreign officials in at least twelve countries. While the principal focus of the DOJ’s action (and the exclusive focus of the SEC action) concerned conduct in Brazil including the companies relationships with Petrobras, the DOJ action also alleges improper payments in Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

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Contrary To The Narrative


There are certain narratives in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act space – while theoretically possible – are rarely, if ever, found in actual FCPA enforcement actions.

For instance, all probably recognize that a bribe to foreign official to obtain a contract to build a bridge could – theoretically – result in the contract being awarded to a company that uses sub-standard steel causing the bridge to collapse and thus causing human injuries and/or death.

Likewise, all probably recognize that a bribe to a foreign physician (who the DOJ and SEC may consider a “foreign official”) to implant a defective medical device or to prescribe a worthless drug could – theoretically – result in patient health and safety issues.

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FCPA Whistleblower Bounty?

The SEC recently announced “an award of over $5 million to joint whistleblowers whose tip caused the opening of an investigation that resulted in a successful enforcement action.” According to the SEC,  “the whistleblowers provided significant information about misconduct abroad that directly supported certain allegations in the enforcement action.”

The accompanying order is heavily redacted, but does mention that the underlying enforcement action “involved misconduct abroad” and was resolved through an administrative proceeding.

My guess is that the underlying action was likely an FCPA enforcement action. If true, this would be rare instance of a bounty being paid out in connection with an FCPA enforcement action.

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Commercial Bribery

The United Kingdom Bribery Act is a more comprehensive statute than the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Unlike the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions which has a required “foreign official” element, the U.K. Bribery Act – including its so-called Section 7 “failure to prevent bribery” offense – is capable of capturing commercial bribery as well.

Last week the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office announced a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Airline Services Limited (ASL) “for three counts of failing to prevent bribery arising from the company’s use of an agent to win three contracts … to refit commercial airliners for Lufthansa.”

According to the DPA, “at the time [between 2011 and 2013], notwithstanding the recent passing of the Bribery Act, ASL had made negligible efforts to educate its staff or to introduce processes to identify and counteract occasions of bribery.”

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