The former CEO of an Austrian bank was arrested Tuesday in the United Kingdom on criminal charges for his alleged role in a massive money laundering scheme involving Brazil-based global construction conglomerate Odebrecht.
Peter Weinzierl, of Austria, was arrested at the request of the United States, the Department of Justice stated. Alexander Waldstein, a former officer at the Austrian bank, remains at large. Both also served as board members of an Antiguan bank.
Weinzierl and Waldstein “conspired with Odebrecht and others to launder money in a scheme to defraud Brazil’s tax authority of more than $100 million in taxes and create off-books slush funds used by Odebrecht to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for the benefit of public officials around the world,” according to the Justice Department’s indictment. This misconduct allegedly took place between 2006-16.
Weinzierl, Waldstein, and their co-conspirators used fraudulent transactions and sham agreements to move more than $170 million from New York bank accounts in Odebrecht’s name through the Austrian bank to offshore shell company accounts controlled by Odebrecht in order to facilitate bribes, according to the indictment.
“Odebrecht falsely recorded the hundreds of millions of dollars in international wire transfers sent to the Austrian bank as legitimate business expenses and deducted the fraudulent payments from the overall profits that it reported in Brazil, thus reducing its tax liability and evading more than $100 million in taxes,” the Justice Department stated.
Weinzierl and Waldstein are also alleged to have transferred millions in criminal proceeds from the Antiguan bank to a U.S. account to purchase stocks and bonds on U.S. exchanges. The two were paid “substantial fees” toward their banks for doing so, according to the Justice Department.
Weinzierl and Waldstein are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of international promotional money laundering. Weinzierl is also charged with one count of engaging in a transaction in criminally derived property.
Weinzierl and Waldstein face a maximum penalty of 70 and 60 years in prison, respectively.
In December 2016, Odebrecht, together with Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem, pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of $3.5 billion relating to the corruption case. Odebrecht’s four-year compliance monitorship ended last year.
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