Miami financial advisor pleads guilty to laundering millions in PetroEcuador bribery case
15 Oct 2019

A Miami financial advisor who faced trial Tuesday on corruption and money-laundering charges that implicated Ecuador’s national oil company and Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht has decided to plead guilty.

Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda, who has American and Ecuadorian citizenship, admitted in a plea agreement that he used the U.S. financial system to launder money to promote foreign bribery schemes and hide the illegal payments to government officials in Ecuador.

Chatburn, who pleaded guilty Friday to a money-laundering-conspiracy charge, paid millions of dollars as kickbacks to PetroEcuador officials in exchange for contracts with the state oil company between 2013 and 2018, according to federal prosecutors in Miami and Washington, D.C.

He also concealed millions in bribes paid to one Ecuadorian official by Odebrecht through several shell companies and bank accounts in multiple places, including the United States, prosecutors said.

Chatburn, 42, represented by defense attorneys Howard Srebnick and Jackie Perczek, faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing Dec. 18 before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke.

Chatburn is now among 10 defendants, including Ecuadorian officials, oil-services contractors, and financial advisors, who have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in Miami and other U.S. courts for their roles in the PetroEcuador bribery and money-laundering racket.

The Justice Department’s case against Chatburn and others followed Odebrecht’s guilty plea in late 2016 to conspiring to violate U.S. anti-bribery laws involving a vast scheme to pay nearly $800 million to public officials in 12 foreign countries where the Brazilian company has built projects. Among them: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela.

In June, the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, along with parent company McClatchy, published a series of stories showing how Odebrecht set up a “bribery division” in a Miami office to funnel kickbacks to foreign government officials to obtain and keep multimillion-dollar construction projects.

By Jay Weaver, Miami Herald, 14 October 2019

Read more at Miami Herald

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