A London court today granted the U.S. extradition request against the former CEO of the collapsed Austrian Meinl Bank, Peter Weinzierl. The decision is not final; Weinzierl will now appeal to the High Court. The U.S. accuses him, another ex-bank manager, and Julius Meinl V. of money laundering and bribery surrounding the Brazilian Odebrecht Group scandal. Meinl Bank has been notorious for the laundering of Russian money.
The Meinl Bank Case: On November 15, the European Central Bank (ECB) revoked the private Viennese bank’s license. Hundreds of millions of euros were siphoned out of Ukraine, Latvia, and Lithuania, an OCCRP investigation found. At the heart of the scheme was Meinl. Authorities in four countries have confirmed criminal investigations of operations facilitated by Meinl Bank between 2011 and 2015
According to the indictment filed by the U.S. Justice Department, Peter Weinzierl allegedly has been involved in the Odebrecht machinations through the former subsidiary of Vienna-based Meinl Bank, Meinl Bank Antigua. Odebrecht had bought contracts worldwide with millions in bribes, and Meinl Bank Antigua allegedly supported it. It was later sold to Odebrecht‘s straw men. Weinzierl and his ex-colleagues deny the allegations.
Weinzierl’s lawyer commented, “My client is extremely disappointed with today’s ruling, which is just another example of the British courts pandering to U.S. authorities and abusing this country’s extradition laws.” He says that no consideration was given in the ruling to the counter-arguments put forward by the lawyer.
The Viennese ex-banker had been arrested about two years ago at a private airport in London; he himself had sat in the cockpit as a pilot. Before that, the U.S. had issued an international arrest warrant against him. Weinzierl felt betrayed by the U.S. in this connection and said in court that he had been lured to London for a business dinner by a person close to the U.S. services so that he could be detained there.
U.S. representatives denied Weinzierl’s allegations at the extradition hearing. Weinzierl has since been released from extradition custody but must report to authorities regularly.
The 57-year-old Peter Weinzierl faces up to 70 years in prison if convicted in the U.S. There are also proceedings against him in Austria, and the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) is also investigating Julius Meinl V, other ex-bankers, and eight associations. It is making accusations of money laundering, bribery, and breach of trust. The defendants deny this, and the presumption of innocence applies to all of them.
The Odebrecht Group became insolvent after the huge corruption scandal came to light. In the U.S., the group was fined around €2.6 billion, €2.4 billion of which went to Brazil. The company was re-established and now operates under the name Novonor.