Banker Flew Jet to U.K. and Found Cops Waiting With U.S. Charges

A banker wanted by the U.S. on money laundering charges was denied bail in the U.K. after he was arrested disembarking a private jet he flew into the country.

Peter Weinzierl, the former chief executive officer of an Austrian private bank, better known by its old name of Meinl Bank AG, piloted the jet into a private airfield just outside London last week, prosecutors said Wednesday. Weinzierl, who is facing charges over his alleged role in a giant Brazilian corruption scandal, was refused bail despite offering a security of 5 million pounds ($7.1 million).

“It was their specific choice, and I say this quite candidly, to lie in wait for Mr. Weinzierl,” his lawyer James Lewis said.

Weinzierl 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.

‘Department of Bribery’ Yields Indictments of Ex-Meinl Bankers

The 55-year-old banker, who appeared via videolink from a London prison, spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth. He was dressed in a gray shirt with a yellow prison vest. He flew into ex-Royal Air Force airfield, Biggin Hill, that advertises itself as being a six minute helicopter ride into London.

Lewis said the request from U.S. authorities “paints a wholly unjustified and misleading picture.” Weinzierl knew of the investigations and had cooperated with Austrian authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said.

“It’s quite frankly ridiculous to say he would not honor his obligations,” Lewis said.

But Judge David Robinson sided with British prosecutors, who’d argued that Weinzierl had little to no connection with the U.K. and he risked fleeing to Russia where he owns a property. “There are substantial grounds for believing he would be a flight risk,” the judge said.

Weinzierl’s lawyer didn’t immediately comment after the hearing.

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