Bloomberg — An Austrian banker wanted by the US on money laundering charges claimed he was “lured” to fly his private jet to London by a longstanding CIA agent where he was promptly arrested at the airfield.
Peter Weinzierl, the former chief executive officer of an Austrian private bank, better known by its old name Meinl Bank AG, is fighting extradition to the US. His lawyer said in a London court Monday that the arrest was an abuse of process by US authorities.
Weinzierl, who is facing charges over his alleged role in a giant Brazilian corruption scandal, was deceived into thinking the agent was a business associate who wanted to meet him for lunch, his lawyer James Lewis said in a legal filing.
Lawyers acting for the US refused to confirm or deny whether the individual has a role in US law enforcement. Weinzierl, who was living in Moscow, was already regularly traveling to the UK, they said.
Weinzierl, 56, is alleged to have conspired with Brazil-based Odebrecht so it could pay bribes to win business around the world, according to the U.S. indictment. Federal prosecutors say the banker and another official helped move about $170 million from accounts in New York through the bank to offshore shell accounts.
Weinzierl flew his private jet into the ex-Royal Air Force airfield, Biggin Hill, that advertises itself as being a six minute helicopter ride into London. He was arrested in May last year when US authorities unsealed the indictment.
US authorities alleged that Weinzierl was involved “in a massive bribery and corruption tax evasion scheme” at Odebrecht, Rosemary Davidson for the US said at the start of the hearing. “The proceeds of the tax frauds were used to pay bribes to officials in multiple jurisdictions.”
There is no “collateral purpose” to the prosecution, she said.
But Weinzierl’s lawyers dismissed the allegations, saying that the US indictment was nothing but a ruse by authorities to pressure Meinl Bank executives.
Officials are pushing Weinzierl to give up “purported dirty secrets” on money from former Soviet states that was passing through the Austrian banking system, David Pack, another attorney for Weinzierl, said in a statement.
Austrian authorities had already investigated the Odebrecht allegations and didn’t believe there was “sufficient evidential case” against his client, he said.
Weinzierl, who has Russian residency, was initially jailed as a flight risk, but later granted bail after a judge ordered him to give up his pilot’s license and not to go near the airfield.