Venezuela's ex-attorney general says Maduro involved in Odebrecht scandal

Friday, August 18, 2017

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PUEBLA, Mexico (AFP) – Venezuela's sacked attorney general Luisa Ortega said Friday she had evidence that President Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle were implicated in the massive corruption scandal around Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

Odebrecht has admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to win juicy contracts in 12 countries, including Venezuela -- a massive scandal that has rocked Latin American politics.

But no names had yet surfaced in Venezuela.

Ortega, who was fired after emerging as a top critic of Maduro, said the bribe-taking there went all the way to the top.

"They are very worried and anxious, because they know we have details on all the cooperation, amounts and people who got rich, and that investigation involves Mr Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle," she told a meeting of Latin American prosecutors in Mexico by conference call.

Ortega did not say where she was calling from.

She has faced growing harassment in Venezuela, where security forces recently raided her home and the authorities have issued an arrest warrant for her husband, a lawmaker who also broke with Maduro.

She had blistering condemnation for Maduro's government, which has installed an all-powerful Constituent Assembly that on Friday seized the powers of the opposition-majority legislature.

"We have seen how all Venezuela's institutions have degenerated, how they have abandoned the rule of law, been turned into the promoters of a totalitarian government," she said.

"We're living through a difficult situation in Venezuela... persecuted and dominated with the weapons of hunger and sickness. It's a struggle to find food and medicine in our country. The government is trying to rule the people through poverty."

She urged her colleagues from around the region not to share information on ongoing investigations with her successor, Maduro ally Tarek William Saab, saying anything they sent to Venezuela would be "used for the opposite of its intended purpose."

She also condemned the government's treatment of her, her family and her friends.

"I am being systematically persecuted," she said.

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