Venezuela Probes Ortega’s Handling of Financial Crimes amid New Odebrecht Corruption Allegations

Venezuelan authorities unveiled Wednesday a probe into the Public Prosecution's handling of financial crimes under the tenure of Luisa Ortega, as the country’s former top prosecutor said she has evidence directly linking President Nicolas Maduro to corruption.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Attorney General Tarek William Saab says he will investigate his predecessor’s handling of financial crimes. (AVN)
Attorney General Tarek William Saab says he will investigate his predecessor’s handling of financial crimes. (AVN)

Puebla, Mexico, August 24, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities unveiled Wednesday a probe into the Public Prosecution's handling of financial crimes under the tenure of Luisa Ortega, as the country’s former top prosecutor said she has evidence directly linking President Nicolas Maduro to corruption.

The new attorney general, Tarek William Saab, said his office will be carefully scrutinising a series of corruption cases “buried” under his predecessor, Luisa Ortega Diaz.

“This Attorney General’s office, during the tenure of the ex-prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz, reneged on its impetus to be a platform for justice,” Saab alleged.

“On the contrary, it became a machine, an industry to extort and persecute innocents and alleged guilty parties to take their money money,” he alleged.

He said the new investigation will focus on unearthing any misconduct at the government’s currency exchange authorities, including the Foreign Currency Administration Commission (CADIVI), which is charged with allocating state dollars. However, Saab also said investigators will likewise scrutinise the Public Prosecution's handling of cases ranging from the Panama Papers to drug trafficking.

“We will recover what has been lost over the past nine and a half years,” he said.

Saab replaced Ortega earlier this month, after the latter was found guilty of "grave misconduct" by the Supreme Court and dismissed by the National Constituent Assembly. Ortega has accused President Nicolas Maduro of trampling the constitution and overseeing a crackdown on dissent. In turn, Ortega has been accused of being soft on deadly protests and armed opposition groups, while her husband has been accused of running an extortion ring out of his wife’s office.

Both Ortega and her husband, German Ferrer, have fled Venezuela, and have reportedly been offered political asylum in Colombia.

However, on Wednesday Ortega emerged in Brazil, where she alleged to have proof linking Maduro and other high level socialist party figures to the Odebrecht scandal.

A leading Brazilian construction firm, Odebrecht has for months been at the centre of a region-wide corruption scandal, which saw company representatives offering kickbacks to government officials in exchange for lucrative public contracts. Ortega claimed one such government official was the vice president of Maduro’s socialist party, Diosdado Cabello. She alleged Cabello had received around US$100 million from Odebrecht.

“They’re very worried and distressed because they know that we have information, and the details of all the operations, the amounts and the people who were enriched – and that that investigation involves Mr Nicolas Maduro,” Ortega alleged.

Ortega didn’t present any evidence, and Maduro’s government is yet to respond to the latest allegations, though in the past, government officials have condemned Odebrecht and vowed to bring corrupt officials to justice.