Austrian Banker Fights Extradition to US on Money Laundering Charges
LONDON (Reuters) – The former chief executive of an Austrian bank who faces charges in the United States in relation to a bribery and money laundering conspiracy involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht asked a London court on Wednesday to refuse to extradite him.
Peter Weinzierl – former chief executive of Meinl Bank, later renamed Anglo Austrian AAB Bank – is accused of helping launder hundreds of millions of dollars in a scheme involving the use of slush funds to pay bribes to public officials around the world.
The 57-year-old Austrian national, who denies the allegations, attended Westminster Magistrates’ Court as his lawyers said in closing arguments that US prosecutors “deliberately misdescribed” Weinzierl’s role to secure his extradition from Britain.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is seeking the extradition on behalf of the United States, said in court filings that Weinzierl is attempting to argue the merits of the prosecution case, which should be determined at trial.
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James Lewis, representing Weinzierl, argued his client’s extradition should not be allowed because Weinzierl was “lured” to Britain in May 2021 by an alleged US law enforcement agent in order to arrest him.
But Rosemary Davidson, representing the CPS, said in written arguments that there are “no reasonable grounds” to believe Weinzierl was lured to Britain to arrest him. She added this would not be a reason not to extradite him even if true.
Odebrecht has admitted it doled out bribes to governments across Latin America to help build its vast construction empire.
In 2016, Odebrecht and its parent company, Braskem, Brazil’s largest petrochemicals company, agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to settle bribery-related charges brought by US, Brazilian and Swiss regulators.
The scandal over bribes for public-works contracts has also spread to other countries where Odebrecht did business, including Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia.
Odebrecht changed its name in December 2020 to Novonor SA, after its name became synonymous with graft due to its role in Brazil’s sweeping Car Wash corruption investigation.
(Reporting by Sam Tobin in London; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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