Two members of the government of former Bolivian President Jeanine Añez (2019-2020) and three Americans have been charged in the United States under an alleged scheme of paying bribes under contract supply of tear gas to the South American country.
The US Department of Justice said former Bolivian government minister Arturo Carlos Murillo Prijic, 57, former employee Sergio Rodrigo Mendez Mendizabal, 51, and a third person linked to the management of Añez, who did not has not been identified, participated in the bribe program between November 2019 and April 2020.
The defendants were arrested in Florida and Georgia last week, according to the file. The prosecution points out that the bribery system is linked to the efforts of three Americans to win a $ 5.6 million contract to supply tear gas and other non-lethal equipment to the Bolivian defense ministry.
A US Department of Justice official said over a six-month period Americans Luis Berkman, 58, Bryan Berkman, 36, and Philip Lichtenfeld, 48, paid $ 602,000 in bribes. to the three Bolivians.
The record indicates that the Americans used a money laundering scheme through bank accounts in Florida and Bolivia and provided Murillo and Mendez with cash payments totaling $ 582,000.
The Berkmans and Lichtenfelds were released after paying bail. The five face charges of conspiracy to launder money and face sentences of up to 20 years, the Justice Department said.
Lawyers for Bryan Berkman, Lichtenfeld and Murillo did not comment on the charge. The defense of the other defendants has not yet been located.
Murillo was minister under the administration of Jeanine Añez, who assumed the presidency of Bolivia after the resignation of Evo Morales. He played a central role in accusing the indigenous leader and his main allies of sedition and terrorism. Murillo has also come under heavy criticism for violent police actions during protests that have resulted in the deaths of supporters of the former president.
After handing over command of the country to Evo’s ally Luis Arce in last year’s elections, Añez was arrested and awaiting trial for sedition.