La Paz, Bolivia (AFP) – Former government minister to former Bolivian interim president, Janine Anez, has been arrested in the United States for allegedly participating in a bribery and money laundering case with a group of businessmen in that country who sold gases and tear gas.
Earlier on Wednesday in Bolivia, the government of the incumbent president, Luis Ars, announced that it would request the extradition of former minister Arturo Murillo and his former chief of office, Rodrigo Mendes.
The US Department of Justice said in a press release that Murillo, Mendez, and three other people were arrested on May 21 and 22 in Florida and Georgia for alleged involvement in a bribery and money laundering case. Bribes paid by an American company and individuals to secure a contract with the Bolivian government and then use the US financial system to launder those bribes, “the document adds.
According to the investigation, between November 2019 and April 2020, American businessmen paid $ 602,000 in favor of the former minister, his former chief of staff, and another former official.
Murillo, 57, had been in office for nearly a year and left Bolivia days before Nez’s term expired on November 8, 2020. If found guilty, they could be sent to prison for 20 years.
President Arts said, “The day that passes, irregularities and acts of corruption are known. It is clearly evident that in that government (Anez) the personal, non-patriotic slogan simply prevailed and forgot to preserve the people’s interests and democracy.”
The current cabinet minister, Eduardo del Castillo, spoke at a press conference on Wednesday and referred to them as a “mafia clan” that corresponded to nearly a year of the Anez government.
“We are sending the corresponding notes so that these gentlemen (Murillo and Mendez) come to report to the Bolivian people. It is not a request from the government, it is a request of the entire Bolivian people.” He added that the extradition will be requested through two channels, one of which is to complain in Interpol and send an official note to the US government.
Soon after, the president of the Senate, Andonico Rodriguez, requested assistance from the United States authorities to extradite those involved.
On Tuesday afternoon, Bolivian police arrested Daniel Alice Paredes, the former minister’s son-in-law, after taking money and valuables out of a locker in the name of Morello. Daniel Pilot, a member of his security team, was also arrested.
Del Castillo reported shortly after that Murillo’s relative had taken the money from four deposit boxes and sought to send it to the United States.
The federal lawsuit alleges that the bribes were paid to a Florida-based company – whose owner is listed as Brian Berkman – to obtain and maintain business with the Department of Defense. “A contract of approximately $ 5.6 million was reported to supply the Bolivian Ministry of Defense with tear gas and other non-lethal equipment,” he said.
Murillo has several operations open in Bolivia, among them are the purchase and sale of tear gas and riot control equipment.
The former authority, along with fellow defense colleague Fernando Lopez, was the first to leave the country days before ñez finished his duties.
“From enforced and unjust exile, I see in the FBI investigation a light of hope and justice to reach the truth. The Bolivian people know that I worked tirelessly for the country, linked to CPE,” Lopez wrote in his Twitter account.
The former president took office in November 2019, two days after Morales resigned from the government after nearly 14 years in office over an alleged electoral fraud case in his favor that caused a socio-political crisis.
Niiz has been in prison since March on charges of “terrorism, incitement to sedition and conspiracy.”