Puebla, Mexico, July 13, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities announced Wednesday charges against two individuals reportedly linked to a government official accused of involvement in the continent-spanning Odebrecht scandal.
In a brief statement, the Public Prosecutor’s office said it will press charges against Maria Baptista and Elita Zacarias. The two women have been identified in local media as the wife and mother-in-law of former Transport Minister Haiman El Troudi.
El Troudi has condemned the charges, stating “my family shouldn't be the way forward”.
The two women have been called to attend a hearing with the prosecution on July 27, though El Troudi has stated he will be attending instead.
"As this case is chiefly political, know that I will be the one to present myself to the prosecutor's office, with my conscience clear and my head high,” he tweeted.
El Troudi is a legislator for the ruling socialist party. He served as President Nicolas Maduro’s transport minister from 2014 to 2015.
On the same day the charges were announced, Venezuela’s highest court restricted the Public Prosecution’s ability to unilaterally seek charges, issuing a ruling requiring the government ministry seek judicial approval beforehand.
It’s unclear whether the proposed charges against Zacarias and Baptista have been approved by a judge.
The Odebrecht Scandal
Over the past two years, the controversy surrounding Odebrecht has exploded into an international scandal. It began in 2015, when Brazilian authorities arrested the construction giant’s former head Marcelo Odebrecht. Since then, more than 70 top company executives have been jailed. Many have since confessed to bribing government officials in exchange for lucrative construction projects – not only in Brazil, but across Latin America and beyond.
Venezuelan prosecutors have faced criticism for being slow to respond to the Odebrecht scandal, despite the country being one of the epicentres of the firm’s corruption scheme. According to the US plea bargain, Odebrecht and its business representatives had handed over roughly US$98 million in bribes to Venezuelan government officials and intermediaries since 2006 – the largest amount for any country outside Brazil.
Earlier this year, prosecutors announced it was seeking the arrest of the company’s Venezuela head Euzenando Azevedo, though he remains at large. Authorities have also questioned government officials including prominent opposition figure and Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles over the Odebrecht scandal.