An Austrian man was arrested today in the United Kingdom on criminal charges related to his alleged participation in a conspiracy to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system as part of a scheme to pay bribes around the world and defraud the Brazilian government.
The indictment unsealed today was previously returned by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, New York, and charges Peter Weinzierl, 55, and Alexander Waldstein, 73, both of Austria, for their role in a massive money laundering scheme involving Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht), a Brazil-based global construction conglomerate. Weinzierl was arrested today in the United Kingdom pursuant to a provisional arrest request from the United States. Waldstein remains at large.
Weinzierl served as chief executive officer and Waldstein as officer of an Austrian bank, and both served as board members of an Antiguan bank. According to the indictment, between approximately 2006 and 2016, 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 to 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 indictment, Weinzierl, Waldstein, and their co-conspirators used fraudulent transactions and sham agreements to move more than $170 million from bank accounts in New York held in the name of Odebrecht, through the Austrian bank, to offshore shell company bank accounts secretly controlled by Odebrecht. As part of the scheme, Odebrecht used the slush funds funneled to the offshore shell company bank accounts to pay bribes. 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. Shell company bank accounts involved in the scheme and used to pay bribes to foreign officials were held at the Antiguan bank that Weinzierl, Waldstein, and their co-conspirators controlled and used to promote the scheme. Weinzierl and Waldstein also caused millions of dollars in criminal proceeds to be transferred from the Antiguan bank to a brokerage account located in the United States to purchase U.S. Treasury securities and corporate stocks and bonds on U.S. exchanges. In exchange for their role in the scheme, Weinzierl and Waldstein collected substantial fees for the benefit of the Austrian and Antiguan banks.
On Dec. 21, 2016, Odebrecht pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to a criminal information charging it with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its involvement in the bribery and money laundering scheme.
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. If convicted of all counts, Weinzierl and Waldstein would face a maximum penalty of 70 and 60 years in prison, respectively. A federal district court judge in Brooklyn will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko for the Eastern District of New York; and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI’s International Corruption squad in New York is investigating this case.
Trial Attorney Michael Culhane Harper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Trial Attorney Michael B. Redmann of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia Nestor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and UK authorities provided significant assistance.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section was formed to prosecute money launderers and forfeit the proceeds of foreign official corruption and, where appropriate, to use those recovered asset to benefit the people harmed by the corruption and abuse of office. Individuals with information about possible proceeds of foreign corruption located in or laundered through the United States should contact federal law enforcement or send an email to email@example.com.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.