Puebla, Mexico, August 17, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities raided the home of former top prosecutor Luisa Ortega Wednesday, accusing her husband of running a multi-million dollar extortion ring.
Ortega was removed from her position earlier this month, and her replacement Tarek William Saab has alleged to have uncovered evidence proving her husband German Ferrer turned her office into “a centre of blackmail and extortion”.
"What we're exposing today is the tip of the iceberg of a cartel," Saab told state media.
Saab alleged Ferrer worked with corrupt officials to extort millions of dollars from defendants in exchange for promises of protection from prosecution.
As evidence, Saab alleged to have obtained financial documents linking Ferrer to six accounts with Swiss banking giant UBS’ Bahamas branch worth US$1 million. He alleged all the accounts were opened sometime since 2016.
“I want them to explain to me how a lawmaker, who is known to have a modest salary, could open various accounts at the same time,” Saab stated.
Ferrer has denied the allegations, claiming the documents include falsified copies of his signature.
“How can a character like Tarek William be so cynical and lying – showing signatures that I have not made of documents that do not withstand the slightest test,” Ferrer told El Nacional.
He continued, “I challenge you to compare what he presents with an original signature of mine to unmask [Saab] as immoral.”
Ortega has responded by dismissing the allegations as “part of the government’s revenge [against me] for fighting against the totalitarianism that exists in Venezuela”.
“The government of [President Nicolas] Maduro and [former National Assembly head Diosdado] Cabello intend to put an end to our struggle for democracy and the freedom for Venezuelans,” she tweeted.
Opposition backs Ortega
Once an ally of Maduro, in recent months Ortega has accused the government of taking an authoritarian turn and cracking down on dissent. Government supporters have hit back by accusing Ortega of misconduct and political partisanship, including failing to prosecute cases of deadly right-wing violence while serving as attorney general. Earlier this month she was impeached and removed from office by the recently elected National Constituent Assembly, paving the way for legal proceedings against her.
Ferrer could also soon face trial, after a court ruled Wednesday his parliamentary immunity didn’t apply to the current case.
The move was condemned by Venezuela’s right-wing opposition.
The constitution … states that all legislators have parliamentary immunity, and that can only be lifted by the National Assembly itself,” National Assembly head and prominent opposition figure Julio Borges stated.
Venezuela's National Assembly has been in comptenpt of court since July 2016 when it swore in three legislators accused of voter fraud in vioation of a Supreme Court ruling.
Borges added that he will take Ferrer’s case to the United Nations.
“We are going to request before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to protect any legislator and the parliament, we are also going to denounce before the high commissioner of Human Rights in the United Nations, the case of the legislator German Ferrer,” he said.
Ferrer and Ortega have developed increasingly close, public ties with Borges in recent months.
On August 6, the former attorney general participated in a controversial public forum at Venezuela's Andres Bello Catholic University alongside Borges, former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, as well as ex-interior minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.