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Wed May 26, 2021, 04:08 PM

US: Interim Bolivia official took bribes in tear gas deal

BY JOSHUA GOODMAN ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
MAY 26, 2021 10:32 AM



FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2019 file photo, a man kicks a tear gas canister during clashes between police and supporters of former President Evo Morales who set up barricades in La Paz, Bolivia. Former senior Bolivian official Sergio Rodrigo Mendez was arrested for seeking kickbacks from a group of Florida-based businessmen allegedly selling tear gas at inflated prices to the conservative government of former interim President Jeanine Anez, who took power in November 2019 after Morales stepped down amid violent protests disputing his re-election to a fourth straight term. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File) JUAN KARITA AP


MIAMI
A former senior Bolivian official has been arrested for allegedly seeking at least $582,000 in kickbacks from a group of Florida-based businessmen accused of selling tear gas at inflated prices to the conservative government of former interim President Jeanine Áñez.

Sergio Rodrigo Méndez was arrested May 21 in Naples, Florida, and charged with a single count of conspiring to commit money laundering, according to a previously unreported federal complaint out of Miami.

Three alleged co-conspirators, all of them dual Bolivian-American citizens, were also detained, including the owner of Florida-based supplier of police and military equipment and his father, who press accounts indicate was charged two decades ago in Bolivia with weapons smuggling.

Méndez served as the chief of staff to Arturo Murillo, who was interior minister in the Áñez government that took power in November 2019 after President Evo Morales stepped down amid violent protests disputing his reelection to a fourth straight term.

As interior minister, Murillo led the deadly police response to pro-Morales protesters that was called a “massacre” by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He also brought charges against Morales and his allies for sedition and terrorism tied to the disturbances.

More:
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article251666403.html

Also posted in LBN:
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10142748967

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Remember?

Trump backs Bolivia's interim leader amid unrest
Jeanine Anez works to ensure 'peaceful democratic transition,' says President Trump
Beyza Binnur Donmez |
17.12.2019

ANKARA

U.S. President Donald Trump threw his support behind Bolivia's interim government amid an ongoing political crisis in the South American country.

"We support @JeanineAnez in Bolivia as she works to ensure a peaceful democratic transition through free elections," Trump said in a Twitter message on Tuesday.

"We denounce the ongoing violence and those that provoke it both in Bolivia and from afar," he said. "The U.S. stands with the people of the region for peace and democracy!"

His remarks came hours after former Bolivian President Evo Morales said that he has the right to do politics in his country and accused the interim government of carrying out a "coup" against his administration with foreign agents.

The former leader was speaking at a press conference in Argentina, where he landed last week after being granted asylum.

More:
https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/trump-backs-bolivias-interim-leader-amid-unrest/1676691

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Reply US: Interim Bolivia official took bribes in tear gas deal (Original post)
Judi Lynn May 2021 OP
Judi Lynn May 2021 #1
Judi Lynn May 2021 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Wed May 26, 2021, 04:09 PM

1. Former Minister of Government of Bolivia, Owner of Florida-Based Company, and Three Others Charged i

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Former Minister of Government of Bolivia, Owner of Florida-Based Company, and Three Others Charged in Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme


Two Bolivian nationals and three U.S. citizens were arrested on May 21, and May 22, in Florida and Georgia on criminal charges related to their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme. The former Minister of Government of Bolivia and another former Bolivian official are accused of receiving bribes paid by a U.S. company and individuals to secure a Bolivian government contract, and then using the U.S. financial system to launder those bribes.

According to court documents, Arturo Carlos Murillo Prijic, 57, Sergio Rodrigo Mendez Mendizabal, 51, Luis Berkman, 58, Bryan Berkman, 36, and Philip Lichtenfeld, 48, engaged in the bribery scheme between approximately November 2019 and April 2020. During that time, Luis Berkman, Bryan Berkman, and Lichtenfeld paid $602,000 in bribes to Bolivian government officials for the benefit of Murillo, the former Minister of Government of Bolivia, Mendez, the former Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Government of Bolivia, and another Bolivian government official. The bribes were paid so that Bryan Berkman’s Florida-based company would obtain and retain business from the Bolivian Ministry of Defense, specifically, an approximately $5.6 million contract to provide to the Bolivian Ministry of Defense tear gas and other non-lethal equipment. To promote the bribery scheme, Bryan Berkman, Luis Berkman, and Lichtenfeld then laundered the payments to Bolivian government officials through bank accounts in Florida and Bolivia and orchestrated the payment of $582,000 in cash for Murillo and Mendez.

All five individuals are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Juan Antonio Gonzalez; and Special Agent in Charge Anthony Salisbury of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Miami office made the announcement.

More:
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/former-minister-government-bolivia-owner-florida-based-company-and-three-others-charged

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Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Wed May 26, 2021, 04:17 PM

2. US: Interim Bolivia official took bribes in tear gas deal

By Joshua Goodman | AP
May 25, 2021 at 9:37 a.m. CDT


MIAMI — A former senior Bolivian official has been arrested for allegedly seeking at least $582,000 in kickbacks from a group of Florida-based businessmen accused of selling tear gas at inflated prices to the conservative government of former interim President Jeanine Áñez.

. . .

Three alleged co-conspirators, all of them dual Bolivian-American citizens, were also detained, including the owner of Florida-based supplier of police and military equipment and his father, who press accounts indicate was charged two decades ago in Bolivia with weapons smuggling.

. . .

The company was allegedly owned by Bryan Berkman, who purchased the tear gas in Brazil for a much-smaller sum of $3.3 million, according to an affidavit from a Department of Homeland Security agent that accompanies the complaint. Part of the profits allegedly were used to coordinate bribe payments to Méndez and his co-conspirator in the Defense Ministry, some of which were to be paid from a delivery of $700,000 in cash to Bolivia.

While the American company is not named in the complaint, Berkman is the chief executive of Taramac-based Bravo Tactical Solutions, according to Florida’s corporate registry. His father, Luis Berkman, who was also arrested and charged, runs a separate Tamarac-based company called International Defense Group.

Bolivian press reports indicate that the older Berkman was arrested on weapons trafficking charges in 2001, accused of heading a criminal ring that tried to smuggle military assault weapons to Paraguay. He was declared a fugitive in 2013 without having been found guilty, according to a Bolivian judicial filing.


More:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/us-interim-bolivia-official-took-bribes-in-tear-gas-deal/2021/05/25/ae05c9bc-bd66-11eb-922a-c40c9774bc48_story.html

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