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Son of ex-Panama president plans to plead guilty to U.S. bribery charges

FILE PHOTO: Luis Enrique Martinelli, one of the sons of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, detained in Guatemala, sits in the back of a car as he arrives at the Guatemalan Air Force for his extradition to the U.S. under charges of money laundering, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, November 15, 2021. Picture taken through glass. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

A son of former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli plans to plead guilty to U.S. bribery and money laundering charges linked to Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Luis Enrique Martinelli was extradited on Monday to the United States from Guatemala, where he was arrested in July 2020. He said at Tuesday's virtual arraignment in Brooklyn federal court that he was pleading not guilty "for the purpose of this hearing."

His attorney, James McGovern, said his client planned to plead guilty at a later date.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that Luis Enrique Martinelli and his brother, Ricardo Alberto Martinelli, were intermediaries for the payment of some $28 million in bribes from Odebrecht to a Panamanian official while their father was president between 2009 and 2014.

Former president Martinelli has not been convicted of any crimes, but he remains under investigation in Panama due to a separate ongoing probe concerning Odebrecht.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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